March 05, 2013
1 min read

Speaker: Know signs of retinitis pigmentosa, not just symptoms

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ATLANTA – Although it is a rare hereditary disease, clinicians must never discount retinitis pigmentosa as a potential diagnosis, and because it can present without symptoms, knowing its signs is essential, according to a speaker here at SECO.

“You’re going to see that there are cases that don’t quite look like RP, but are, and that there are cases that look like RP but are not,” Sherry J. Bass, OD, FAAO, said in a presentation on retinal dystrophies.

One symptom of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is nyctalopia, where a patient complains of difficulty seeing at night, particularly when driving. Another is peripheral vision loss, which starts out as a scotoma that spreads peripherally and may progress to blindness by middle age. Nyctalopia is usually uncorrected myopia, but it could also be RP, Bass said.

However, for patients who have no symptoms, signs of RP that may appear in a routine eye exam include: bone spicule pigmentation, a pale waxy disc, disc drusen, cystoid macular edema and a posterior subcapsular cataract, she said.

“You have to look in the retina,” Bass said. “And the most consistent fundus finding for RP is arteriolar attenuation. You may see nothing else, but if the vessels look narrow in a young, healthy individual, think RP.”