CMV retinitis (cytomegalovirus) is an infection that attacks the light-sensing cells in the retina. It is a serious disease that should be diagnosed and treated immediately, because it can lead to loss of vision, and in the worst cases, blindness.
What Causes CMV Retinitis?
CMV stands for cytomegalovirus. This virus is a common source of infection in humans and generally lays dormant in the body without producing symptoms. While most people’s immune systems are able to fend it off, those with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to its effects. It is particularly prevalent in people with AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) – although continued progress in anti-retroviral therapies have reduced the prevalence of late-stage AIDS. CMV infection can occur in several parts of the body, most commonly in the gastrointestinal system and the retina, the tissue in the back of the eye necessary for vision. Most infections happen when a person's T cell count drops below 40.
Symptoms of CMV Retinitis
Many people with CMV retinitis experience no symptoms. However, there are certain signs that may be indicative of the virus:
Treatment for CMV Retinitis
A person with a weakened immune system experiencing any of the above listed signs should see a retina specialist as soon as possible.
There are several medications that aim to minimize the effects of CMV retinitis. The sooner you begin treatment, the better chance that vision can be helped. Also, if only one eye is infected, receiving proper systemic treatment early may protect the other eye. Oral, injected, and intravenous medication are all used to slow the progression of the disease, and need to be taken on a week-to-week basis.