Peruvian village where many men go blind by 50 leads to stigmitization

Parán is a small dusty village in the foothills of the Andes in Peru, and for a long time, everyone had known about the men there who go blind by the time they’re 50. 

“With my son, I started to realize that something was going on because he started to walk all wrong,” Yessica Palomares says. “He’d want to wander around, but he tripped everywhere and ran into things.”

But no one knew why this was happening. The town was isolated and most people there had never seen a doctor. Then a few years back, a new road was built. Parán started to export peaches. Mining companies began sending in workers to look for gold and silver.

Then the doctors started to arrive. They were sent to Parán by a mining company, as kind of an outreach effort, and locals hoped the doctors would give them glasses or medicine to fix their vision problems.

Instead, the doctors told them that the problem was a genetic condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Bit by bit, it knocks out the cells in the retina, like pixels going out on a computer screen, until one day everything goes totally blank.

The condition is caused by a mutation on the X chromosome, so while women can carry the defect, it’s usually the men who go blind.

Read the full, original story: Everyone in this small Peruvian town knew about the men who go blind by age 50. Then they found out why

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