3 Things to Know About Inherited Retina Diseases

Father resting his hand on his adult son's shoulder.

You rely on your eyes to do thousands of tasks every day, so it’s easy to take your vision for granted. You probably take good care of your eyes by scheduling regular exams and wearing UV sunglasses to protect them (even when it’s cloudy). However, some people may experience vision problems due to retina diseases, which are rare and usually inherited. Here are three things to know about retina diseases.

1. Six common types

The retina is a light-sensitive layer in the back of your eye. It contains millions of cells called rods and cones. The rods help you see in low-light situations. The cones provide colors and high-resolution central vision. The retina also contains nerve cells that accept and organize the things you see.

Several diseases can damage the retina, impacting the ability to see. Here’s a list of common retina diseases:

  • Stargardt – This disease attacks the middle of the retina that helps you see straight when reading or driving. About one in every 8,000 to 10,000 people are impacted by Stargardt disease.
  • Choroideremia – About 1 in 50,000 to 100,000 people, mostly men, are affected by this disease. One of the first symptoms of choroideremia is night blindness, starting in childhood. With age, sufferers may experience tunnel vision, impacting overall vision.
  • Cone-rod dystrophy – This disease damages the cones and rods in the retina. Vision experts estimate that 1 in 30,000 to 40,000 people experience cone-rod dystrophy. Initially, children with this disease may have blurred vision. Adults could experience color loss and blind spots in their central vision.
  • Retinitis pigmentosa – This is a group of diseases that attack the retina’s light-sensitive cells. About 1 in 40,000 people have retinitis pigmentosa.
  • Archromatopsia – About 1 in 30,000 people have this disease. Archromatopsia attacks the retina’s cone cells that help them see color. Key symptoms of this disease are color blindness, light sensitivity, involuntary eye movements and blurred vision.
  • Leber congenital amaurosis – A baby with the inherited retina disease called Leber congenital amaurosis will experience vision loss and a damaged retina within a few months. This disease affects about 2 to 3 of every 100,000 newborns. The eye’s clear covering may be thin and cone-shaped instead of curved. Babies may have crossed eyes or farsighted vision, and their eyes may not respond to light.

2. Causes

These retina diseases are inherited or passed from generation to generation. The type of gene formation determines the likelihood of developing the disease.

3. Treatment

Currently, there are no cures for inherited retina diseases. However, scientists are researching treatment solutions. Eye doctors may encourage people with inherited retina diseases to use low-vision tools to cope with vision problems.

These tools include:

        • Magnifying lenses
        • Computer programs that read words aloud
        • Devices with bright light
        • Guide dog or a cane

Eye doctors also recommend that people, especially those with retina diseases, wear sunglasses every time they are outdoors to protect their eyes from UV sunlight damage. It’s also a good idea to avoid smoking to prevent retina damage.

In addition, diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and glaucoma can damage the retina. Accidents and explosions also injure the retina. Learn more about new treatments to repair retina damage caused by diseases and injuries.

Prevent Blindness
Janssen Pharmaceuticals
Mayo Clinic