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Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an eye disease that is inherited, and very rare. About one in four thousand Americans are affected by this disease. The retina, which is the light-sensitive portion of the eye, degenerates progressively over time. The result of this degeneration is the loss of peripheral vision, loss of central vision, night blindness, and sometimes blindness.

Retinitis Pigmentosa Symptoms

Childhood is when the first symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa generally appear. Usually both eyes are implicated in the disease. Sometimes RP doesn’t appear until older age, at age 30 or even older.

The main symptom of RP in the beginning stages is night blindness. Tunnel vision may develop in the later stages of the disease, where central vision is affected, and only a small portion of sight is available.

One study of patients suffering from RP revealed that, in patients 45 years and older, 52% had at least 20/40 central vision in one eye, 25% had 20/200 vision or below, and 0.5% were completely blind.

Causes of Retinitis Pigmentosa

Very little is known about the causes behind RP, beyond that it is an inherited disease. Scientists believe that defective molecules in our genes cause RP. This explains why the disease affects patients so differently.

If one parent carries the defective gene, it’s possible to get RP, even if your parents do not have the disease. Approximately one percent of the population are carriers of the RP recessive gene. Sometimes this recessive gene is passed on to the child, who will then develop retinitis pigmentosa.

RP affects the retina in the eye. The disease causes the light-sensitive cells that are located in the retina to die gradually. Most often, the cells that are used for night and peripheral vision, called rod cells, are affected. Sometimes the cells that are used to see color and for central vision, called cones, are also affected.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The main diagnostic tool employed is visual field testing. This test determines how much peripheral vision loss has occurred. Other diagnostic tools may be used to test night vision and color vision.

Few treatments exist for RP. What is available helps conditions associated with RP, not the disease itself. For patients older than 25, there is a prosthesis system that was recently approved. This system captures images via glasses, and transmits the signal captures to an implanted device located on the retina.

Most treatments center around helping the patient learn to deal with their vision loss. Psychological counseling, and occupational therapy, may be recommended. Technological instruments that help with low vision, such as illuminated magnifiers, can help patients with RP see as well as possible with their limited vision. Some doctors recommend vitamin A supplements as there is some evidence that vitamin A might help delay the progression of the disease.

For the future, scientists are hopeful that there will be additional treatments for RP, including new drug treatments and retinal implants.

Thank you for trusting your eyecare with us over the years.  The Foresight Eyecare team follows the government mandate to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  After December 2020 announcements made by the Alberta Government, our clinic is following the revised Infection Prevention and Control policy by the Alberta College of Optometrists.

Patients interested in obtaining eye exam services or eye care products can be seen by appointment only.  Please call ahead, and staff will arrange an appointment time and ask COVID-19 screening questions.  If you have any symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose or shortness of breath, we ask that you call or e-mail us and do not attend the clinic for your scheduled visit.   Within the clinic, please wear a mask and use the hand sanitizer at reception.  Our clinic complies with the City of Calgary bylaw requiring mask covering over the age of two years old.  For patients who are unable to wear a face covering due to medical reasons, the patient can be scheduled for an appointment at a time when minimal number of other patients are in the clinic such as at the beginning or end of the day to ensure appropriate physical distancing requirements.

We are using disposable disinfectant wipes on all surfaces and devices such as front desk counters, chairs, handles in exam rooms and waiting room.  All eyewear that have been touched by patients are continually being sanitized.   Any toys and magazines are stored at this time.  Examination areas are being sanitized with hospital grade disinfectant.  Debit and credit cards but NO CASH payments will be accepted.

COVID-19 symptoms are not always obvious.  We want to fend off this pandemic and minimize risk to our patients and the Foresight staff as front line health workers.   Contact that is closer than 2 m (6 feet) is to be avoided, with barriers in place when this cannot be avoided. We choose to continue to do our work and cautiously take care of our patients with compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience.   It is a challenging and new experience for many of us, so let‘s support each other and prevent virus spread!  Beyond 2020, our focus is on take care of you and keeping Clean Hands, Clear Heads and Open Hearts.   For more information, please refer to the following web pages or phone Health Link 811.

www.albertahealthservices.ca

www.collegeofoptometrists.ab.ca

Drs. Dianna Leong, Anh Bui, Andrew Chan