Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

Reviewed by Grant M. Comer, M.D. and John R. Heckenlively, M.D.

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What Is Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) refers to a group of diseases which cause a slow but progressive vision loss. In each of them there is a gradual loss of the light-sensitive retinal cells called rods and cones.

Most forms of RP are inherited or genetic, though its signs do not necessarily appear in every generation. Learning more about your family history may help you and your doctor to make informed decisions about treatment and eventually a cure for RP.

In some cases, RP may be associated with other health problems, such as hearing loss. People with RP may also develop other treatable eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataract.


  • Night blindness
  • Loss of peripheral vision

Symptoms usually start during young adulthood, although RP may be seen at any age.

The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have retinitis pigmentosa. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.


Currently, very few treatments exist for persons with RP. Occasionally, the degeneration can be slowed to preserve vision for a longer time. Genetic studies of RP are a significant factor in finding a cure or prevention for this disease. The U-M is performing research on genetic factors of RP.

Researchers at the Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration are not only conducting cell-biological research on these eye diseases, they are vigorously working on molecular genetic aspects of X-chromosomal retinal/macular dystrophies. The molecular information obtained in testing has become critical, in some cases, for refining diagnosis. The investigators at the University of Michigan Department of Ophthalmology have broad experience with the molecular genetics of a number of retinal conditions, including X-linked blue cone monochromacy, X-linked cone dystrophy, Best's macular degeneration, Stargardt's macular degeneration, Sorsby's hemorrhagic macular dystrophy, choroideremia, and Usher's syndrome.


  • Understanding Retinitis Pigmentosa Booklet
    To help our patients and their families understand and deal more effectively with retinitis pigmentosa, faculty at the U-M Kellogg Eye Center have written an Understanding Retinitis Pigmentosa booklet. Download the Understanding Retinitis Pigmentosa booklet (pdf).

    You will need to have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view the booklet. If you don't already have Acrobat Reader, download Acrobat Reader here.

Clinic Information

For more information, see the Retina and Uveitis Clinic and the complete Clinic Services listing of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 19-Feb-2014 08:42:44 EST