Visual acuity impairment in patients with retinitis pigmentosa

Ophthalmology. 1996 Oct;103(10):1593-600. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(96)30458-2.


Purpose: The authors evaluated visual acuity impairment in 906 patients from 742 families with either isolated or various identifiable genetic subtypes of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) to determine the severity of their visual acuity impairment. Emphasis was placed on the prevalence of total blindness and visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in this group of patients.

Methods: This cross-sectional retrospective study included all patients with RP who met certain entrance criteria and were examined by one of the authors (GAF). The authors analyzed the eye of each patient with the best-corrected visual acuity on their most recent visit.

Results: Seventeen patients with a sector form of RP were excluded from the authors primary analysis. In the remaining group of 889 patients, 710 (80%) had a visual acuity of better than 20/200, 648 (73%) showed a visual acuity of 20/70 or better, and 489 (55%) had a visual acuity of 20/40 or better in at least 1 eye. Seventy-five patients (8%) had visual acuity of count fingers or worse in their best eye. There was only one patient with no light perception in each eye. Patients with autosomal dominant RP, as a group, had the least severe and those with X-linked recessive RP had the most severe impairment in visual acuity. Those with autosomal recessive disease were intermediate in severity of visual impairment.

Conclusions: Analysis of visual acuity in this large group of patients with RP, which genetically is representative of patients with RP seen in the United States by those who specialize in retinal disease, showed that it was rare for the patients to lose all visual acuity from the disease itself. Further, legal blindness from visual acuity loss, defined as best-corrected visual acuity that is no better than 20/200 in at least one eye, occurred in a relatively small percentage (20%) of our patient population, whereas approximately half of all patients and 42% of those older than 60 years had a visual acuity of 20/40 or better in at least one eye. The extent of impairment in visual acuity was associated with the genetic subtype of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / complications
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / genetics*
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / physiopathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Visual Acuity*