What's the Best Treatment for Retinitis? | Magruder Eye Institute

What’s the Best Treatment for Retinitis?

Do you think you may have retinitis pigmentosa?  When the retina isn’t working correctly, it results in a variety of eye-related issues and diseases, such as retinal detachment or retinitis pigmentosa.  The retina is a layer at the back of the eyeball containing cells that are sensitive to light. It triggers nerve impulses that pass via the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed. It contains photoreceptors and other cells.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disorder that results from harmful changes to one of fifty genes. When these changes occur, the photoreceptors are damaged. This can cause severe impairments to one’s vision.  Do you think that you or a loved one may need retinitis pigmentosa treatment?

How Does Retinitis Pigmentosa Affect Your Vision?

When you are afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, it affects your photoreceptors. These are the retina’s cells in your eyes that help you to see. They absorb and convert light into signals that help to construct images.  There are two main types of photoreceptors. These are identified as rods and cones.  When you first begin to experience retinitis pigmentosa the rods are more affected than the cones.

Eventually, the rods begin to die. When this happens, you start to experience night blindness. You will also notice a progressive loss of the visual field, the area of space that is visible at a given instant without moving the eyes.  As time passes, this leads to the loss of cones.  As the cones die, people lose more and more of the visual field. This will result in the development of tunnel vision.

At this stage, the person who is afflicted may have difficulty performing essential tasks of daily living. These tasks might include reading, driving, walking, or recognizing common objects and even familiar faces.

The Progression of Retinitis Pigmentosa

This disease is not commonly diagnosed. In fact, only one in 4,000 people will be diagnosed with it, according to the National Eye Institute. In order to have this disease, it is passed through a chromosomal genetic mutation.  The symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa usually first appear in childhood. The symptoms may not be recognized as the eye disease at this point in the patient’s life, however.

Symptoms You May Notice

When someone does have retinitis pigmentosa, as children, they will often have problems getting around when it is dark. It may be harder for someone with this disease to adjust to different levels of lighting.  As the disease progresses, you may notice that they seem clumsy. They might begin to trip over things or run into objects more often than you would expect. These are consequences of their visual field becoming restricted.  People that have retinitis pigmentosa often are sensitive to bright light. This condition is known as photophobia.

Not everyone with photophobia has this eye disease. It is only one of the symptoms that patients commonly report.  Sufferers are often affected differently. Some may have their central vision impaired significantly earlier than others. Still, there are some that may not notice a severe loss of vision until later in life.


There is more than one test that eye doctors use to make a diagnosis.  One of the most obvious ways to tell if someone has retinitis pigmentosa is to perform a thorough eye exam. When the retina is examined in a patient with retinitis pigmentosa, the physician will usually notice dark streaks appear in the retina. This is how the disease got its name.

Other tests that can help your doctor to make a diagnosis include:

  • Performing an Electroretinogram, or ERG
  • Visual Field Testing
  • Genetic Testing

Your doctor may perform one or more of these tests. You may have to visit more than one kind of doctor to receive all of the tests that are recommended. For example, you may visit your eye doctor for one of the tests and a geneticist for another.

What Happens Next?

Once you have been seen by your retina specialist and had the recommended testing procedures performed, then your retina specialist can make a diagnosis based on what they have found.  You will then most likely be referred to a team of specialists who can help you decide on a treatment plan.

Your team of specialists may include:

  • An Occupational Therapist
  • An Opthomoligist
  • Orientation and Mobility Specialists
  • Certified Low Vision Experts

In addition, there might be others included in your treatment that your doctor may recommend as part of your team.

It is important, once you are diagnosed, that you follow your physician’s recommendations. You do not want to take any chances and risk a further loss of vision. With the right team of specialists, you can receive appropriate care and be given the best treatment options possible.

What Type of Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment is Available?

Depending on the severity of your case, the doctor may suggest one or more types of retinitis pigmentosa treatment.  Patients who receive a diagnosis may feel afraid and worry about a complete loss of eyesight. This can be difficult for many people.  It is important that you try to form a solid support system to help you understand and deal with your diagnosis.  The important thing to remember is that a diagnosis is not the end of the world. There are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can be done to help patients cope with this disease and maximize their ability to see.

Also, there are specific retinitis pigmentosa treatment options that may be made available to you. And, in this day and age, with the advanced technologies and accomplishments in science and medicine, physicians are learning more and more every day.  You shouldn’t count out the possibility of new retinitis pigmentosa treatment options becoming available in the near future.

In the meantime, your doctor may choose to prescribe a retinitis pigmentosa treatment plan that includes one or more of the current options available to patients.

Vitamins and Supplements May Help Treat Your Eye Condition

The most widely-regarded theory known as an effective line of retinitis pigmentosa treatment for patients is a combination of vitamins and supplements. This combination of vitamins and supplements has been proven to slow vision loss and is endorsed by the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Updated research efforts support a combined retinitis pigmentosa treatment regimen of vitamin A palmitate (which is different from Vitamin A), oily fish (DHA), and lutein.  This regimen may slow vision loss in people with retinitis pigmentosa and Usher Syndrome types 2 and 3. The new information replaces the Vitamin A Packet information that was provided previously by the Foundation.

The most recent retinitis pigmentosa treatment theory is based on three peer-reviewed, clinical studies funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness group. These studies were conducted by Dr. Eliot Berson and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Findings Reported in Recent Research

In Omega-3 Rich Diet Combined with Vitamin A Slows Visual Acuity Decline in Patients with RP, Dr. Berson reported that the combined regimen may provide up to 20 additional years of useful vision for people with typical forms of retinitis pigmentosa.

According to Vision Aware, a group that advocates for independent living with vision loss, the new research on retinitis pigmentosa treatment, reported by Dr. Eliot Berson, includes insights in the following major areas:

  • Research on lutein supplementation for slowing loss of mid-peripheral visual field
  • Research on oily fish consumption, or DHA supplementation, for slowing loss of visual acuity
  • Diseases for which vitamin A palmitate supplementation could be harmful

Although the research does not indicate that there is a cure for this debilitating eye disease, it does offer patients some hope in minimizing vision loss.

Additional Patient Recommendations

Physicians and experts stress the importance of patients receiving regular, thorough eye exams. Regular eye exams help patients to maintain awareness about their condition. It also allows their eye doctor to closely monitor their personal progress or regression.  Patients should also have their doctor perform regular vision field testing to test for visual acuity.

Patient Options

Your doctor can offer eye care advice for better vision. In addition to taking the prescribed doses of vitamins and supplements, there are some other things that your doctor may suggest that can help patients seeking retinitis pigmentosa treatment.  According to Vision Aware’s website, one of the things that your doctor may recommend is a special type of visual field-expanding glasses that use prisms.  These glasses are specially made for people with reduced peripheral vision. They help you become more aware of your missing visual fields, making navigation and reading easier. While they do not restore “normal” vision, they have proven useful in assisting patients with everyday activities.

You may need to have specialized training from a low vision specialist to be able to properly use these glasses.  Reverse telescopes is another type of equipment that the site mentions that may be helpful for patients with a reduced vision field.  These telescopes help you to see certain images better. But, for the telescope to be effective, you must have a certain degree of your eyesight intact. You will also need to be trained by a specialist to be able to use this type of equipment properly.

Proper Diagnosis is Key to Treatment

Experts and doctors agree that the key to getting the best treatment possible is to receive a proper diagnosis by someone who is trained in eye diseases and knows about retinitis pigmentosa treatment options.  If your eye doctor is not familiar with retinitis pigmentosa treatment, it is important that they refer you to specialists that can help you get the most accurate diagnosis.  An accurate diagnosis will help your team of doctors and therapists form a specialized plan that fits your unique situation.

Everyone is different. And, even if you have been diagnosed with this eye disease, your circumstances may not be like another patient’s. Therefore, treatment will vary from one patient to another.  Taking care of your visual health should be a top concern, especially if you or a family member have received a diagnosis of this or another eye disease.

Make an Appointment Today!

Are you concerned that you may be experiencing vision loss? Do you wonder if retinitis treatment may benefit you?  If you are having problems with your eyesight, you shouldn’t wait until the situation worsens.  Retinitis pigmentosa and other eye diseases can be serious and cause lifelong problems with your vision. However, the earlier you become diagnosed and seek retinitis pigmentosa treatment, the better your outlook will be.

Contact us today to make an appointment with an eye specialist that can help with all of your vision needs.