Signs & Symptoms Ophthalmology & Optometry

Retinitis Pigmentosa
Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of RP usually develop between the ages of 10 and 30, although some people experience symptoms during childhood. Symptoms vary depending on what part of the retina is affected. RP is a progressive disease, but the rate at which vision deteriorates varies for each person. Eventually, most people with the disease have a very restricted field of vision.

In general, a person's rod cells are first affected by RP. Rod cells help with peripheral (side) vision and seeing in dim light or dark places. The first symptom is often "night blindness," which is difficulty seeing in dim light, such as in a darkened room or outdoors at dusk. Healthy eyes naturally adapt to dark light, but eyes affected with RP take much longer to do this or don’t do it all. Some people are also bothered by the glare from sunlight or bright lights.

Trouble with your peripheral vision is also a common early symptom of RP. Peripheral vision is what you see on the sides, rather than straight ahead of you.

In some people, the central cone cells are affected first, and the disease is called cone-rod dystrophy (CRD) instead of RP. Central cone cells help with central vision, which is needed for detailed tasks such as reading, writing, driving, discriminating colors and seeing other fine details clearly.

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.