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Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a part of a group of inherited eye disorders that affect the retina. The retina is a thin layer of tissue containing millions of light-sensitive nerves that lines the back of the eye. Light rays focus onto the retina, where they are transmitted to the brain and then become the images that you see. In RP, the retinal cells gradually stop working and eventually die. In most cases, the condition first affects the peripheral rod cells, which allow you to see at night, and later affects the central cone cells, responsible for fine detail and color vision.

RP causes permanent vision loss, which usually happens very slowly, over the course of years. Some people with RP become blind, but most people with the condition retain some level of useful vision. If you have RP, there is a 50 to 60 percent chance that someone in your family also has the condition.

Our approach to retinitis pigmentosa

UCSF's ophthalmologists provide comprehensive evaluations and care for all types of eye conditions, from the most common to the rare and complex. We are experts in inherited eye diseases, such as RP.

Although RP currently has no treatments, researchers at UCSF and elsewhere are working to develop them. Interested patients may be able to receive experimental treatments by joining a clinical trial. One large study found that vitamin A may have a small benefit for some RP patients, and we do provide advice on vitamin therapy. We also treat other eye issues sometimes caused by RP, such as cataracts and swelling in the retinas. Low-vision aids, mobility training and other supportive care can help patients with performing everyday tasks.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • n10-2x

    Best in Northern California for ophthalmology

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.