Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis is a disease associated with late-stage AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). It invades the retina, affects the light-sensitive receptors in the eye and thereby threatens vision.
In the past, CMV retinitis presented in approximately 25% of active AIDS patients. Thankfully, with the availability of powerful medications that restore function to the immune system, this condition is quite rare.
Symptoms of CMV Retinitis
No pain is felt when CMV attacks the retina. Along with decreased visual clarity, poor peripheral vision and distorted vision, small specks or floaters may be seen. Sudden loss of vision or flashes of light are frequently experienced. Changes to the retina and optic nerve in AIDS patients may also occur with no clear indications of CMV retinitis.
Although CMV retinitis generally begins in one eye, it often involves both eyes. When untreated, it can cause retinal detachment and blindness.
Causes of CMV Retinitis
Cytomegalovirus, a very common virus, is responsible for CMV retinitis. Antibodies to CMV are present in approximately 80% of adults, which shows that their immune systems fought off the virus successfully. However, AIDS patients have a weakened immune system that cannot overcome the virus. Other people with a compromised immune system, such as chemotherapy patients, are also at a higher risk for CMV retinitis.
Treatment for CMV Retinitis
Anyone with active AIDS who begins to experience visual symptoms should see an eye specialist immediately. A range of anti-viral drugs are prescribed to treat CMV retinitis.
Medicine for HIV
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is the most prominent breakthrough in AIDS treatment. This potent combination of drugs suppresses HIV, which is the AIDS virus, and allows the immune system to gain enough strength to fight infections such as CMV retinitis.