Retinal Degenerative DiseasesMillions of people in North America live with varying degrees of irreversible vision loss because they have an untreatable, degenerative eye disorder like retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which affects an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide, or age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada and North America. Retinal degenerative diseases affect the delicate layer of tissue that lines the inside back of the eye. This part of the eye -- the retina - is essential for vision.
Imagine the eye is like a camera. The shutter, like the iris of the eye, opens and closes to let in the right amount of light. The lens helps to focus light on the film. The retina is like film. Regardless of the perfection or quality of the rest of the camera, if the film is faulty, the developed pictures may be distorted, blurred or impossible to see.
This very large and diverse group of vision disorders affects young and old and people from many cultures, races and ethnicities. Age-related macular degeneration is distinguished by its prevalence in the senior population, and age is considered to be the major risk factor for developing this eye disease. Retinitis pigmentosa and other related conditions are inherited genetic conditions, even if a person who develops it has no previous family history of vision loss. The list of inherited retinal dystrophies (degenerations) is very long, but here are a few of the more common:
- Retinitis pigmentosa
- Choroideremia (affects males)
- Retinoschisis, Juvenile
- Stargardt disease
- Usher disease
Information about these and other conditions provided on the FFB web site is meant to complement and not replace any advice or information from a health professional. Please talk to your retinal specialist about what you learn here, and how it applies to your own health.
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Reviewed June, 2012 in consultation with Dr. Bill Stell, FFB Director of Research Programs and Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy; Surgery; Ophthalmology; and Neurosciences at the University of Calgary.