Retinitis pigmentosa has been described as 'a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of incurable retinal degenerative diseases'.20 It has no cure and symptom alleviation is limited. Retinitis pigmentosa is characterised by progressive loss of rod photoreceptors, leading to night blindness, followed by atrophy of the receptors, resulting in tunnel vision and blindness. Macular pigment has been suggested to have a protective role for central vision through antioxidant and filtering effects. Short-term improvement in visual acuity and central field diameter has been seen following supplementation with lutein 20 mg/day for four months.7 Another study looking at macular pigment and lutein supplementation in retinitis pigmentosa found central vision in patients to be unchanged after taking 20 mg/day of purified lutein for six months. However, macular pigment optical density increased in approximately half of the patients.6 The researchers also noted that macular pigment optical density in their patient group did not differ from the normal range, although disease expression tended to be more severe in those with lower macular pigment levels.
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