Hope for Vision is dedicated to funding the development of treatments and cures for blinding diseases, particularly retinal degenerative diseases. These diseases can affect anyone - all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. Although many of them progress at different rates and at different times in life, they all cause the degeneration or deterioration of the retina - the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye that converts light to electrical impulses. These electrical impulses are sent to the brain through the optic nerve allowing us to see. The degeneration of the retina disrupts this process and causes progressive vision loss, ultimately leading to blindness.
Below is a list of the most common forms of these diseases.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the name given to a group of inherited eye diseases that cause the degeneration of photoreceptor cells of the retina, also called rods and cones. These are the cells which capture and process light helping us to see: the rods are associated with peripheral vision and night vision; the cones with clear central vision and color vision. RP mutates the function of the rod and cone cells and they slowly stop working.
Most forms of RP first cause the degeneration of rod cells, leading to night-blindness. As the disease progresses and more rod cells degenerate, loss of peripheral vision is experienced too. Many people with RP often experience a ring of vision loss in their mid-periphery with small islands of vision in their very far periphery. Others report the sensation of tunnel vision, as though they see the world through a straw. Many retain a small degree of central vision throughout their life.
Other forms of retinal degeneration first affect cone cells and central vision. Such conditions tend to be named cone-rod dystrophies (CRD). People with CRD first experience a loss of central vision that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. With the loss of cone cells also come disturbances in color perception. As the disease progresses, rod cells degenerate, causing night blindness and low peripheral vision.
Symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa and CRD are most often recognized in children, adolescents and young adults, with progression of the disease continuing throughout the individual’s life. The pattern, degree and rate of visual loss are variable. These diseases are genetic, meaning that parents can pass the disease down as unaffected carriers or actually show the eye problems themselves. There are recessive, dominant and X-linked forms of the diseases.