Cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV retinitis) is a serious viral infection of the retina and is caused by the cytomegalovirus. This is one of the herpes viruses that infects most adults. The vast majority of people who have cytomegalovirus have no symptoms of infection. They will never have any problems because of the virus. But in people with weakened immune systems, the virus can reactivate and spread to the retina. This can lead to vision-threatening eye problems.
CMV retinitis symptoms can begin with a slow onset of floaters with blurred vision over a few days. This can lead to a loss of peripheral (side) vision. Sometimes the symptoms begin with a blind spot in the center of vision and can lead to a loss of central vision. The symptoms usually happen first in one eye but often progress to the other eye. Without treatment or improvement in the immune system, CMV retinitis destroys the retina and damages the optic nerve. This results in blindness. People with CMV retinitis will often develop a detached retina.
Strengthening your immune system is an important part of treating CMV retinitis. People with HIV or AIDS often improve if they are on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
There are also specific CMV retinitis treatments. Ganciclovir and other antiviral medicines can be taken in several ways:
- by mouth
- through a vein
- as an eye injection through an implant in the eye that delivers medication over time.
Often the Doctor may need to perform laser surgery. This will strengthen the retina where CMV damage has occurred.
Although treatments are available, you cannot get back vision lost because of CMV retinitis. Even with treatment, the disease may still progress. Recurrence of CMV retinitis is common, so regular checkups with an ophthalmologist are important.