Around 100,000 people in the United States are living with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), according to the Fighting Blindness Foundation.
RP is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness. With no cure in Western medicine, many people living with retinitis pigmentosa are turning to alternative treatment options.
Read on to find out what is retinitis pigmentosa and discover an alternative retinitis pigmentosa treatment.
Retinitis Pigmentosa Explained
Retinitis pigmentosa refers to a group of eye diseases that cause photoreceptors in the retina to break down over time, leading to gradual vision loss.
The retina is a thin tissue that lines the back of the eye. It has rod and cone photoreceptors that convert light into electrical signals. The brain turns these signals into vision.
Retinitis pigmentosa causes are genetic. The disease often runs in families. The common retinitis pigmentosa age of onset is childhood to adolescence.
However, in rare cases, RP may occur because of eye injuries, eye infections, or as an adverse effect to certain medications such as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.
Researchers differentiate several types of retinitis pigmentosa based on their pattern of genetic inheritance. These account for most of the retinitis pigmentosa hereditary causes.
- Autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa – One parent has a copy of a mutated gene associated with the condition. Their children have a 50% chance of developing retinitis pigmentosa through inheriting that gene.
- Autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa – Both parents carry one copy of a mutated gene and one normal copy. Their children have a 25% chance of inheriting the mutated gene from each parent and developing retinitis pigmentosa.
- X-linked retinitis pigmentosa – The mutated gene is on the X chromosome. Since females have two X chromosomes and males have one X and one Y chromosome, the children of female carriers have a 50% chance of inheriting the gene and developing the condition. Males can only pass the X-linked retinitis pigmentosa gene to their daughters, who will always develop the condition.
What Gene Is Mutated in Retinitis Pigmentosa?
According to current research, mutations in the RHO retinitis pigmentosa gene account for up to 30% of all autosomal dominant forms of the disease.
Meanwhile, the autosomal recessive form of the disease has been linked with at least 35 gene mutations including the USH2A gene.
X-linked retinitis pigmentosa has been associated with at least 6 gene mutations including the RP2 and RPGR genes.
In total, more than 100 genes have been associated with retinitis pigmentosa.
Researchers are currently studying potential treatments targeting several of these genes, including RPE65, RPGR, and USH2A.
Good to know: Retinitis pigmentosa may also occur as part of other conditions. Other retinitis pigmentosa associated conditions include Usher syndrome, Refsum disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Alström syndrome, dysmorphic face and kidney deficiency, and metabolic disorders.
How Will Retinitis Pigmentosa Develop?
Retinitis pigmentosa usually occurs when faulty genes inherited from one or both parents begin to damage rods in the retina leading to night blindness and the gradual loss of peripheral vision. This usually begins in childhood or adolescence.
As the disease progresses, the cones in the retina may also be affected, reducing visual acuity and causing color blindness.
Late retinitis pigmentosa vision can be significantly affected. Retinitis pigmentosa blindness commonly occurs in many patients. Blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa can be complete.
Retinitis Pigmentosa Symptoms
The degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa can cause different symptoms in different people depending on which photoreceptors it damages. Some people with RP lose their vision faster than others.
Early retinitis pigmentosa signs and symptoms can include:
- Loss of night vision – Day vision may continue to be normal, but you may need longer to adapt to darkness. You may find it challenging to drive at dusk or see in dim rooms. Loss of night vision in RP is the result of damage to the rods in the retina.
- Loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision) – Retinitis pigmentosa peripheral vision loss occurs gradually. At first, you may have difficulties seeing things out of the corner of your eyes. As the rods in the eyes become damaged, you lose more side vision. You may bump into objects around you and not be able to see things to the side without turning your head. Advanced loss of peripheral vision leads to tunnel vision, where the field of vision narrows, and you only have some central vision.
- Sensitivity to light – People with RP may develop sensitivity to bright light from the sun or artificial sources such as screens.
- Loss of visual acuity – When RP affects the cones in the retina, it can make it difficult for you to read or work.
- Loss of color vision – Another consequence of retinal cone damage is the loss of color perception. Colors may first become washed out and then vision can become similar to grayscale.
- Central vision loss – Retinitis pigmentosa central vision loss may occur in the late stages of severe retinitis pigmentosa.
How Is Retinitis Pigmentosa Diagnosed?
A retinitis pigmentosa diagnosis involves a variety of tests carried out by an ophthalmologist. These tests include:
- Ophthalmoscope checkup after your doctor dilates your pupils with eye drops
- Visual field test for measuring peripheral vision
- Electroretinogram for measuring the retina’s response to light
- Optical coherence tomography for taking a detailed picture of the retina
- Genetic testing based on DNA blood or spit samples
Good to know: Getting an eye exam regularly is one of the best ways to screen your eyes for retinitis pigmentosa and other eye conditions.
Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment
Doctors may prescribe vitamin A and acetazolamide medications and recommend the use of sunglasses to alleviate light sensitivity.
Retinal implants may also be available as a way to recover partial sight in the later stages of the condition. However, none of these strategies can cure retinitis pigmentosa.
Many people diagnosed with RP become legally blind by the age of 40 and may go on to lose complete vision.
Western medicine currently does not provide a cure for retinitis pigmentosa. After a retinitis pigmentosa diagnosis, many people with the condition look towards alternative treatment options in an effort to slow down the progression of the disease and regain some of their vision.
Gene therapy and gene replacement look like promising future treatments for retinitis pigmentosa, but they are currently still under review. More research is needed before they become widely available.
The Wellspring Clinic for Holistic Medicine
In 1997, Dr. Weidong Yu and his wife Tianyu Kathy Zhang founded the Wellspring Clinic for Holistic Medicine in Vancouver, Canada, with the mission to help people reach their full potential and live happier lives through a healthy lifestyle.
In 1999, they encountered a patient with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare eye disease considered untreatable by Western medicine. RP eventually leads to functional blindness.
Although the patient had initially come to the clinic for weight loss treatment, Dr. Yu convinced her to let him treat her eye condition through a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
After a few sessions, the patient experienced improvements in her night vision and visual field. She could walk downstairs without holding her husband’s hand and became increasingly independent as her vision continued to improve. The results of the treatment proved to be lasting.
The Wellspring Vision Improvement Protocol (WVIP)
After this experience, Dr. Yu developed a treatment for retinitis pigmentosa grounded in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Known as the Wellspring Vision Improvement Protocol (WVIP), it became a revolutionary step in the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa.
The WVIP treatment consists of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine in the form of the proprietary Guang Ming formula, and antioxidant supplementation. WVIP has shown night vision improvements and visual field expansion.
In China, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used to treat night blindness for centuries. Dr. Yu applied these principles to the treatment of RP, in which night blindness is often the condition’s most distinctive symptom. A 2013 pilot study involving 12 adult patients with retinitis pigmentosa found that acupuncture could lead to significant visual function improvements, shorter dark adaptation, better night vision, and visual field improvements.
In the 2000s, word of a retinitis pigmentosa cure spread, and Dr. Yu began receiving patients from all over the world. People with other eye conditions including dry eye disease, myopia, and macular degeneration also sought his treatments.
So far, Dr. Yu and his staff have treated over 750 cases of retinitis pigmentosa at the Wellspring Clinic for Holistic Medicine. Dr. Yu keeps in his office a global map of the retinitis pigmentosa cases he has treated, proof of the global reach of his treatments.
The Sightsage Founding Story
In light of these experiences, Dr. Yu sought a way to make his vision treatments accessible to people everywhere. This was how Sightsage was born.
Founded by Dr. Yu and his wife Kathy, Sightsage makes available to customers around the world vision wellness products formulated to nourish the eyes and enhance the body’s natural healing powers.
Bright Vision by Nature
Led by Dr. Yu and his wife Kathy, the Wellspring Clinic for Holistic Medicine is on a mission to provide bright vision through natural remedies.
Dr. Weidong Yu graduated from the Shandong College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1983 with a Bachelor of Medicine degree after studying both TCM and Western medicine for five years. In 1991, he earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the School of Public Health, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.
Tianyu (Kathy) Zhang has been working in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 30 years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine degree she earned from the Anhui College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1985 after studying TCM and Western medicine for five years. She earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the School of Public Health, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.
Whether you suffer from retinitis pigmentosa or another eye condition, Dr. Yu and his staff may be able to provide treatments rooted in the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.Learn more about the Wellspring Clinic and the Vision Improvement Protocol.