We’ve talked to you about low vision services to help those with visual impairments, and we’ve covered some of the most common causes of low vision such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Here, we will cover some of the rarer inherited conditions that may lead to visual impairment, and how low vision services can help people affected by these diseases.
Retinitis pigmentosa, more commonly called RP, is a rare genetic disorder which slowly causes progressive damage to the retina. The condition typically begins in childhood, and progresses throughout life, causing an array of visual problems. Most commonly, people with RP will initially notice problems seeing in low-lighted conditions, or a decrease in their side vision. These symptoms can continue to get worse as the condition progresses. In the end stage of the disease, people affected often have tunnel vision, meaning their visual field is so constricted that only a small circle of central vision remains.
RP patients are a great candidate for low vision services. Devices such as a reverse telescope can be used to expand the field-of-view of these patients, allowing them to see more of the world around them. Orientation and Mobility training may be particularly useful to ensure those affected with RP are able to safely navigate independently, despite their decreased visual field. In the later and more severe stages of the disease when central vision is affected, telescopes and magnifiers can help RP patients with their reading goals.
Stargardt disease is a very rare progressive condition that steals away central vision. Like age-related macular degeneration, Stargardt can initially cause mild distortions and of central vision, and progress to severe visual impairment. However, unlike age-related macular degeneration, Stargardt disease typically affects people at a much younger age, and can have an unpredictable course. Low vision services are especially helpful for these young patients. Magnifiers, telescopes, and digital magnification devices such as CCTVs can allow those affected by Stargardt disease to adapt to their visual impairment and live a normal life. With low vision service and device training, young patients who have been diagnosed with Stargardt disease can oftentimes continue with school, work, and hobbies for a long time without being halted by their vision loss.
The Future of Inherited Retinal Diseases
RP and Stargardt disease are just two of a group of diseases known as Inherited Retinal Diseases. These genetic conditions are incredibly rare, but can be a devastating diagnosis to those affected and their loved ones. While there is no current cure for inherited retinal diseases, many scientists are working with gene therapy in hopes to eventually bring relief to these patients and their family in the future. Those affected with an inherited retinal disease will oftentimes have gene testing to determine the mutation causing their disease. With this information, groups all around the world are hoping to find the cause of, or the solution to, these genetic problems with detrimental effects. In the meantime, low vision providers are there to offer support and help for these patients so they can live fully with their visual impairment.