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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an eye disease. It leads to gradual loss of vision and, sometimes, blindness.

RP occurs when the light-sensing cells in the eye break down. These cells, called rods and cones, are located in the retina. This is the back portion of the eye that sends visual information to the brain.

The first signs of RP usually can be detected by age 10. The first symptoms usually show up in adolescence. The total amount of vision loss and how quickly the disease worsens vary from person to person.

No one knows exactly what causes RP. It is believed to be an inherited disorder. However, in some cases, the disease occurs in people who do not have a family history of the disease.

The disorder also can show up as part of other syndromes. These include Bassen-Kornzweig disease or Kearns-Sayre syndrome.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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