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Retinitis Pigmentosa Symptoms & Diagnosis


Loss of vision is usually first noted in childhood or early adulthood. The disease gradually worsens. After a number of years, vision loss may become severe. Symptoms vary, depending on the type of retinal cell that is affected. Both eyes often experience similar vision loss. It should be noted that RP is a slowly progressive disease over many years and that most patients never become completely blind. In fact, even though many people with RP are considered “legally blind,” it is only because they have very constricted fields of vision (poor peripheral vision). Some still maintain excellent central visual acuity. Overall, symptoms may include:

  • Night blindness (the most common symptom)
  • Eyes take longer to adjust to dim lighting
  • Trouble seeing in foggy or rainy weather
  • Eyes are slow to make adjustment from bright sun to indoor lighting
  • Decreased peripheral vision/visual field narrows, often called "tunnel vision"
  • Difficulty seeing colors, especially blue
  • Visual loss, partial or complete, usually gradually progressive
  • Clumsiness from lack of sight, especially in narrow spaces such as doorways

Blurry vision from cataracts may complicate RP later in the disease.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform an eye exam. You may be referred to an eye specialist, such as an ophthalmologist.

Vision tests may include:

  • Visual field testing—to check peripheral vision, which is how well you see off to your side, rather than directly ahead, without moving your eyes
  • Visual acuity—checks how well you can see progressively smaller objects, usually a row of letters or numbers
  • Dark adaptometry—tests how your vision adapts to darkness
  • Color testing—determines how well you can differentiate colors
  • Electroretinogram (ERG)—a test to measure electrical activity in the eye. This test identifies the loss of cell function in the retina and is used to track progression of the disease.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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