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Beta carotene benefits some patients with retinitis pigmentosa

Posted Oct 19 2010 12:00am

AAO.org - Beta carotene seems to have the ability to improve vision in people with certain incurable retinal diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, according to a report at the October 2010 meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

9-cis beta-carotene linked to vision boost in one-third of retinitis pigmentosa patients

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a cluster of hereditary disorders of the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) that can result in incurable blindness. RP usually begins with night blindness in childhood, then loss of peripheral (side) vision leading to tunnel vision, and ultimately blindness. Since a specific form of the nutrient beta carotene, 9-cis, has been effective against one type of night blindness, researchers decided to test the effects of 9-cis beta-carotene in retinitis pigmentosa patients. One third of the 29 participating patients showed improved visual function while taking the prescribed oral dose for 90 days, but the other two-thirds showed no effect.

“We recommend repeating the study with patients with the genetic forms of RP that would be most likely to respond to oral beta carotene,” said Dr. Rotensteich. “We know its positive effect is associated with retinoid cycle defect, which is involved in some but not all forms of retinitis pigmentosa. Also, future research should look for the optimal beta carotene dosage,” he added.

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