Retinitis Pigmentosa: What is It, and How Does Wearable Technology Help with It?

What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

A close up picture of a green eye

Last week, we talked about the eye condition macular degeneration. This week, we wanted to talk about retinitis pigmentosa, which is another eye condition that is not as common but still causes low vision. Retinitis pigmentosa is caused by genetic factors and affects people as early as childhood while macular degeneration is often linked with older people is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

In a sense, retinitis pigmentosa is the reverse of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a loss of central vision, which is typically used for focusing and noticing details while retinitis pigmentosa is a loss of peripheral vision due to a breakdown/loss of cells (photoreceptors) in the retina (light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye). 

While central vision might sound like it's more important, peripheral vision is actually still just as vital. Peripheral vision is important for spatial information. Spatial information is often linked with body mechanics and a fight or flight response. For example, if you have good peripheral vision you might see a basketball coming at your head in the "corner of your eye." As a result, you duck your head or catch it to avoid getting hit.

A silhouette of a basketball hoop with a basketball. It's sunset so the sky is bright orange.

Heads up! Peripheral vision might help you dodge a basketball coming at your head. 

Peripheral vision is also important for scene gist recognition. This means that it's used to determine the meaning of an image within a single fixation. For instance, if you were to simply glance at a photo of a beach for a very brief amount of time (less than one second), your peripheral vision would help you determine that it was a photo of a beach. 

A beach at sunset. The waves are hitting the sand and the sky is a pale blue with a hint of golden sun

Peripheral vision is important for scene gist recognition. 

Since retinitis pigmentosa is related to a loss of peripheral vision, those who are diagnosed with it often have "tunnel vision." This means that they can typically use their central vision just fine, but anything surrounding it might be difficult for them to see. Those who have it may struggle with seeing in the dark, as peripheral vision is also used for this.

A person is in the center of a beautiful mountain nature shot. The edges of the picture are blackened to simulate tunnel vision.

This is how a rough depiction of how retinitis pigmentosa can affect vision. 

How Does Wearable Technology Help?

Wearable technology, such as a Vision Buddy virtual reality headset, can help those with retinitis pigmentosa. While many of our users have central vision loss, we still help with peripheral vision loss! If you have retinitis pigmentosa, you can still see more clearly with Vision Buddy. For instance, you might be able to see what words say on a newspaper but struggle with the location of words and reading them in the correct order. Vision Buddy can help you with this! 

Vision Buddy can also help with watching television. Perhaps you struggle to see objects in the corner of a screen, to take in a background, or see shows that feature dimly lit scenes. Well, Vision Buddy might be able to help you with that. 

Any Questions?

Of course, no two cases of retinitis pigmentosa are the same. If you have specific questions about Vision Buddy and retinitis pigmentosa, you're always welcome to contact us. You can email us at, start a chat, or call us at 1-833-787-2020. We'd be more than happy to have a conversation with you!

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Three rokus

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