Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disease that affects the light photoreceptor cells in the retina. The age of onset varies between 25 and 40 years, although there are cases diagnosed before age 20 or after 50 years. In Spain alone, there are about 25,000 people affected.
The prognosis and severity of the disease is highly variable, even within the same family, where you can find children more affected than their parents or elderly people with normal vision for their age.
The retina is the light-receiving layer of the eye that converts light rays into electrical impulses that travel through the optic nerve to the occipital or posterior part of the brain where they are converted in images. The retina consists of a cell network within which these light receptor cells called rods and cones are located.
In retinitis pigmentosa, apoptosis or cell death of these rods and cones occurs, preventing this circuit from forming. In the early stages of this disease, the rods are damaged and the patient reports difficulty with night and side vision. As the disease progresses, cones are damaged producing a marked decrease in visual acuity by affecting the center of the retina and color perception.
At the moment, there are no conclusive studies that indicate which factors are responsible for this disease. Some environmental factors such as lutein, antioxidant vitamins and a diet rich in DHA-omega-3 may have a protective effect on the disease. By contrast, the light appears to accelerate the disease and the appearance of cataracts limits the already impairs visual function, and emphasizes the bad effects.
Artificial retinas are a new hope for patients who have lost all vision.
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Back of the eye in patients with retinitis pigmentosa