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What are the symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa?

Retinitis pigmentosa causes slow loss of vision. Symptoms begin with decreased night vision and later progress to loss of peripheral (side) vision. Some people may also have difficulty identifying colors. The rate of vision change varies in different people depending on the genetic makeup of their disorder.

As night vision decreases, the ability to adjust to darkness becomes slower and slower. You may:

  • Stumble over objects in the dark;
  • Find driving at dusk and night difficult;
  • See poorly in dimly lit rooms, such as a movie theater.

While your vision during the day may be completely normal, your inability to see in dark conditions is considered “night blindness.”

Loss of side vision also makes moving around more difficult, causing noticeable clumsiness from not being able to see objects below and around you. As the outer areas of vision slowly disappear, the condition commonly referred to as “tunnel vision” occurs. Many people retain a wide enough scope of useful vision for a long period of time. In some cases, central vision may be affected first, making detail work difficult, such as reading or threading a needle. This is referred to as macular dystrophy, because the central area of the retina, called the macula, is affected.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.