Focus on Retinitis Pigmentosa


Please note that this page is for information only, it is not a replacement for medical advice.
If you have any questions regarding Retinitis Pigmentosa or any other eye condition,
please consult a medical professional. 

What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Retinitis pigmentosa - also known as RP - is a group of inherited disorders that affect the retina. This is the part of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to the brain. It is characterised by the gradual degeneration and loss of the photoreceptor cells in the retina, which eventually leads to blindness.

The condition usually begins with night blindness, followed by a gradual loss of peripheral vision, and eventually central vision. Other symptoms may include decreased visual acuity, difficulty seeing in low light conditions, and loss of colour vision.

Retinitis pigmentosa is caused by genetic mutations that affect the function of the photoreceptor cells in the retina. There is currently no cure for the condition, but there are treatments available to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. These include vitamin A supplementation, low-vision aids, and in some cases, gene therapy or retinal implants.


"About half of people with Inherited Retinal Dystrophies (IRD)
have a relative who also has the condition.




Symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa

The symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa can vary from person to person, but they generally involve progressive vision loss over time. The earliest symptom is often difficulty seeing in low-light conditions, such as at night or in dimly lit rooms. This is known as night blindness and can make it challenging to navigate in low light environments.

As the condition progresses, other symptoms may include:

Loss of peripheral vision

This is also known as tunnel vision, as it causes the person's field of vision to narrow over time, making it more difficult to see objects in the periphery.

Difficulty distinguishing colours

As the disease progresses, the person may have difficulty distinguishing between certain colours, particularly blue and green.

Loss of central vision

This can occur in the later stages of the disease and can significantly impact the person's ability to perform tasks such as reading or recognising faces.

Other possible symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa may include eye pain or discomfort, sensitivity to light, and difficulty adjusting to changes in lighting conditions. It's essential to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist if you experience any of these symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can help to slow down the progression of the disease and preserve vision.

How someone with Retinitis Pigmentosa might view the world  

Image shows someone playing table football. the image is framed with a blurred white area, to represent what someone with RP might see.      

Please note this is a simulation of retinitis pigmentosa, based on the anecdotal experiences of people who have the condition. This image is not the experience of everyone with retinitis pigmentosa and is for illustration purposes only.


Diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa

A diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa typically involves a comprehensive eye exam, as well as a review of the person's medical and family history. The eye exam may include several tests to assess visual function, such as:

A visual acuity test

This test measures how well a person can see at various distances.

A visual field test

This measures the extent of a person's peripheral vision and detects any areas of visual field loss.

Electroretinogram (ERG)

This test measures the electrical activity of the retina in response to light stimulation. It can help to diagnose retinitis pigmentosa by detecting abnormalities in the photoreceptor cells.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

This is a non-invasive imaging test that provides high-resolution images of the retina, allowing doctors to detect any structural abnormalities.

In some cases, genetic testing may also be recommended to identify the specific genetic mutations responsible for the condition. This can help with diagnosis, as well as with genetic counselling and family planning.

If you experience any symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa, it's essential to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help to slow down the progression of the disease and preserve vision. 


"Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the most common inherited eye condition.
It affects around one in 4,000 people in the UK.

Fight For Sight UK




Treatment of Retinitis Pigmentosa

There is currently no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, but there are several treatments available that can help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. These include:

Vitamin A

Studies have shown that taking high doses of vitamin A can slow down the progression of retinitis pigmentosa in some people. However, it's important to consult with a doctor before taking any supplements, as high doses of vitamin A can be toxic.

Low vision aids

These include devices such as magnifying glasses, telescopes, and electronic aids that can help people with retinitis pigmentosa see more clearly and perform daily tasks.

Gene therapy

Researchers are exploring the use of gene therapy to treat retinitis pigmentosa by replacing the defective gene responsible for the condition with a healthy one. While this treatment is still experimental, it has shown promising results in some early clinical trials.

Retinal Implants

These are devices that are implanted into the eye to replace the function of the damaged photoreceptor cells. They work by converting light into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain, allowing people with retinitis pigmentosa to see again.

Orientation and mobility training

This type of training helps people with retinitis pigmentosa navigate their environment safely and independently, using techniques such as using a cane or guide dog.

It's important to note that the effectiveness of these treatments can vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. It's essential to work closely with an eye doctor to develop a personalised treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals.

"Signs of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) usually appear during childhood or adolescence

Living with Retinitis Pigmentosa

Living with retinitis pigmentosa can be challenging, but there are many strategies and resources available to help people with the condition maintain their independence and quality of life. Here are some tips for living with retinitis pigmentosa:

Get regular eye exams

It's important to see an optometrist or opthalmologist regularly to monitor the progression of the disease and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

Use low vision aids

Devices such as magnifying glasses, telescopes, and electronic aids can help people with retinitis pigmentosa see more clearly and perform daily tasks.

Use assistive technology

Assistive technology, including screen magnifiers, screen readers and accessible book readers or text-to-speech software, can help you navigate your daily life in comfort. These tools can make it easier to read, write, study and use technology.

Whatever your experience is with computers, Dolphin assistive technology can help.

Optimise lighting and contrast

Using bright lighting and high-contrast colours can make it easier to see and navigate your environment.

Modify your environment

Simple modifications such as adding handrails or contrasting tape to stairs can make it easier to navigate your home.

Learn new skills

Orientation and mobility training, as well as other types of training, can help people with retinitis pigmentosa learn new skills and adapt to their changing vision.

Stay active and social

Engaging in physical activity, hobbies, and social activities can help improve mood and overall quality of life.

Seek emotional support

Living with a chronic condition can be emotionally challenging. Seeking support from friends, family, and mental health professionals can help manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

Remember, everyone's experience with retinitis pigmentosa is unique, and it's important to find the strategies and resources that work best for you. By taking an active role in your treatment and maintaining a positive attitude, you can continue to lead a fulfilling and independent life.

Where to find more information about Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

RNIB Logo-1

Royal National Institute for Blind People 

RNIB provides information, advice and support for people with RP, other visual impairments and sight loss conditions.  

Visit RNIB >

Retina UK

Retina UK

To find out more about Retinitis Pigmentosa and learn when and how to get treatment in the UK, visit the Retina UK website. 

Visit Retina UK

AOA logo

American Optometric Association (AOA)

The leading authority representing more than 48,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals and optometry students.

Visit AOA website >

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How Dolphin assistive technology can help you live with Retinitis Pigmentosa

How Dolphin makes a difference

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If you are blind or partially sighted, Dolphin assistive technology helps you maintain your independence. We have developed specialist software, specifically for people experiencing sight loss.

For over 35 years, we have made a difference to the lives of millions of people who are blind or partially sighted. Dolphin software includes screen magnification and screen reading technology, book reading apps and easy to use computer programs. These work to help people with sight loss to work or study, to complete tasks independently at home, to access the internet and read all the information on a computer screen.

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About SuperNova

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SuperNova is a range of assistive technology for people who are blind or partially sighted. SuperNova provides exceptional magnification, screen reading and braille support and enables you to explore your computer screen. 

Choose the edition that suits your vision:

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  • SuperNova Magnifier & Speech
  • SuperNova Magnifier & Screen Reader
  • SuperNova Enterprise

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