Why it is important to attend Professor Michaelides’ eye clinic if you’re wondering if you have retinitis pigmentosa
Professor Michaelides helps with the genetic diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa and provides advice on gene therapy for patients affected with X linked Retinitis Pigmentosa. He can also detect whether there is a Retinitis Pigmentosa syndrome associated with other conditions and whether there are associated cataracts or macular oedema. Both cataract and macular oedema worsen the vision. Both conditions can be related to Retinitis Pigmentosa and are amenable to treatment. Multiple research groups across the world are doing an enormous amount of work in this area, and Professor Michaelides is in touch with them and working very closely with them.
Once we make the diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa, it is important that you have access to the best possible vision support. First of all, you should make sure that there is not an associated cataract. We can treat a cataract surgically with phacoemulsification cataract removal and intraocular lens implantation. Secondly, you need to check that there is no macular oedema. We can treat macular oedema medically, or with injections into the eye.
Will you need to change your lifestyle if you have Retinitis Pigmentosa?
Retinitis Pigmentosa is most commonly isolated, ie not associated with other medical problems apart from vision. Because Retinitis Pigmentosa affects the peripheral vision, it can be helpful for other people to be aware that you have narrow side vision – and a mobility cane can be helpful in this regard. One such cane is the UltraCane, and it uses ultrasound sensors to detect objects (feet, flower pots, lamp posts, people, dogs, dustbins, etc.). The UltraCane is suitable for people with visual impairment to help them navigate especially in crowded or unfamiliar places and be independent. There are different canes for various heights and different requirements. There is even an UltraCane bike with the sensors applied, which can help your confidence and mobility.
Adapting the workplace so that your computer has less glare and magnifying the screen can help you to perform your work more efficiently. There is a lot of free text-to-speech (TTS) software available for use on computers, tablets and phones which will enable you to listen to a document or an email and then reply verbally which the software will write back. The software includes Balabolka Text-to-Speech (TTS) program, WordTalk, that can be attached to Microsoft Word. Natural Reader is very good at organising documents into a library. Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader reads aloud any text you copy to a clipboard. There is also an application called Panopreter Basic, which offers simple text-to-speech conversion, but which gets the job done.
How to protect eyes from light if you have Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis Pigmentosa often causes light sensitivity, and therefore you should wear quite dark glasses to protect your eyes from the light.
An early symptom of Retinitis Pigmentosa is what is called night blindness, where there is a loss of rod sensitivity (the cells in the retina that work in dim illumination). Night blindness prevents you from adapting your vision when going from the light into the dark, so you have a slow dark adaptation. Some patients also experience glare, particularly for light at the blue end of the spectrum, and this causes a discomfort and haze in your vision.
You can apply special filters to dark glasses such as a blue block, which has 100% UV absorption, to eliminate high-frequency blue light waves and help stop excessive glare and haze. A high contrast pigment added to the dark glasses can also help increase colour definition and contrast. These dark glasses help to protect the retina from the bleaching effect of blue light and help faster adaptation when moving from sun to shade.
You can also wear darkened contact lenses which let in less light and can help stop the glare. If the retina is already damaged, excessive UVA and UVB from sunlight may be additionally harmful to the retina and therefore it is essential that the glasses are both UVA and UVB blocking sunglasses. It may also be sensible to wear a hat with a broad rim in bright sunlight, not only to stop further damage to your retina, but to make it easier for you to move between light to dark and prevent annoying glare and cloudiness of vision.