In our new series, we present the most common visual impairments. We start with Retinopathia Pigmentosa (RP), a group of hereditary eye diseases in which the retina is destroyed. Often the entire retina is affected by the disease.
The disease is caused by a genetic defect and results in the death of the sensory cells of the retina. A distinction is made between two types of sensory cells: rods (responsible for light-dark vision) and cones (responsible for color recognition and sharp vision). In retinopathia pigmentosa, both rods and cones perish. Around three million people worldwide suffer from this eye disease, which is often inherited and affects men more often than women. Originally, the disease was called "retinitis pigmentosa". However, this term is misleading, since the Greek word ending "-itis" in medicine indicates inflammation, which is not the case with this disease.
The first symptoms of the disease are night blindness and an increasingly poor ability to adapt to light conditions. As a result, vision steadily declines and colors can no longer be seen properly. About half of all affected people also develop a clouding of the lens, the cataract. In the late phase of retinopathia pigmentosa, also known as Patermann's syndrome, the field of vision may be so limited that only a small area of central vision remains. Because peripheral vision gradually becomes more difficult, this condition is often referred to as tunnel vision or tube vision.
With the help of supplements, the progress of the disease can be slowed down, but any damage caused is irreparable. In some cases, computer chips are surgically implanted in the eye to restore light perception to a certain degree. Around one in four patients also suffers from associated retinopathia pigmentosa. In this case, other organs of the body besides the eye show symptoms of the disease, such as muscle weakness, paralysis, and hearing and heart rhythm disorders.