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Retinal Dystrophy Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

The term retinal dystrophy refers to a group of rare genetic eye conditions.

These inherited retinal diseases cause damage to the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Some can even cause blindness.

Contact the Retinal Dystrophy Clinic at 412-647-4732 or

What Is Retinal Dystrophy?

Eye doctors define inherited retinal dystrophies (IRD) as genetic eye conditions that lead to decreased vision over time.

Some IRDs mainly affect the eye's retina and cause vision problems. Others go hand-in-hand with other health problems like kidney disease and hearing issues.

People of all ages can have IRD. Some become apparent in babies, while others don't appear until the teen years or later.

IRDs are rare. They affect about one in 4,000 people worldwide.

What Causes Inherited Retinal Dystrophies?

Genetic variations in your DNA for specific genes can cause IRD. DNA is the code passed along from your parents' genes.

These gene changes cause cells in the retina to work incorrectly or break down, affecting your vision.

There are more than 100 genes associated with IRDs, with researchers still finding more. What type of IRD you have depends on your genetic makeup.

Many IRDs start in childhood and progress as the years go on.

What Are the Risk Factors and Complications of Retinal Dystrophy?

How Do You Diagnose Retinal Dystrophy?

Standard tests to diagnose and manage an IRD include:

  • Fundus photos.
  • Optical coherence tomography.
  • Visual field.
  • Electroretinogram.
  • Genetic testing.

We also work closely with our research team to bring you clinical trials of new treatments.

What Are the Treatment Options for Retinal Dystrophy?

The UPMC Retinal Dystrophy Clinic offers a range of treatments and services for those with IRDs. Our eye doctors are world-renowned experts in rare eye disease treatment.

IRD treatments may slow vision loss and preserve your eyesight. They can also improve your quality of life.

Some of our IRD treatment options include:

Is there a cure for IRD?

No. There's no current cure for IRD. And treatments cannot undo damage to the retina. But they can stop it from getting worse. Our researchers, along with other groups, are working toward finding better treatments and a cure.

The earlier you get a diagnosis, the better your chance of preserving your vision.