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Souleyman Bah, a contestant on The Apprentice who was fired last night, has a rare eye condition called RP. Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, Clinical Adviser to the College of Optometrists provides the below information about the condition:

Like many people affected by visual impairment Souleyman Bah shows that life goes on and with determination and energy his passion for entrepreneurship is clearly not going to be held back by Retinitis pigmentosa (RP). I hope he will be able to raise awareness of the condition and most importantly inspire viewers watching the show.

RP is a group of eye conditions that affect the back of the eye. RP is a hereditary condition, causing permanent changes to a person’s peripheral vision. It can make it more difficult to see in low light or the dark. In some forms of RP, the central vision may be affected.

The first symptoms usually are difficulty seeing in low light or starting to bump into things. The symptoms may develop during early childhood or more commonly between the ages of 10 to 30, depending on the type of RP. It is caused by a fault in one of the genes responsible for maintaining the health of the surface at the back of the eye, called the retina. The type of RP will determine whether it is the cone or rod cells in the retina that do not work as they should. Around 1 in 3,500 people are affected by RP in the UK and about half of people with RP have another family member with the condition.

There is currently no cure or treatment which can slow down or stop RP from getting worse. However, there has been some success using gene therapy in conditions similar to RP. More research is needed, but it is hoped that gene therapy may be successful for treating RP in the years to come.

If you have concerns about your vision, you should visit your optometrist for a sight test. An optometrist will examine the retina to detect signs of RP. If your optometrist is concerned, they can refer you to an eye doctor, called an ophthalmologist for more tests. Your optometrist can also suggest local support services to help adapt to life with changing vision.

ENDS

Note to editors

The College of Optometrists is the professional body for optometry. We qualify the profession and deliver the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, health services, and health care professionals.