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Human immunodeficiency virus and its effects on the visual system

Michael W. Stewart
  • Michael W. Stewart
    Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo College of Medicine, Jacksonville, FL, United States |


During the first 15 years of the AIDS epidemic patients experienced a high incidence of blindness due to cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis and other severe ocular opportunistic infections. Highly active anti-retroviral therapy, introduced in 1996, dramatically decreased the incidence of CMV retinitis. Though CMV retinitis still causes 40% of vision loss in AIDS patients, other conditions such as immune reconstitution uveitis, cataracts, and a significant othercategory -which most investigators believe is directly due to HIV - comprise the majority of cases. HIV causes vascular abnormalities of the conjunctiva and retina in the majority of AIDS patients, as well as retinitis, anterior and posterior uveitis and vasculitis. HIV frequently causes an optic neuropathy and is responsible for the majority of eye movement disorders among HIV patients. Physicians need to be aware that these problems may be the initial manifestation of HIV infections or a sign of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) failure. Therefore, patients with identifiable risk factors for AIDS who present with ophthalmologic conditions of unknown etiology should be considered for HIV testing. Finally, anti-retroviral therapy has been reported to cause asymptomatic deposits as well as degenerative conditions of both the anterior and posterior segments of the eye.


HIV, AIDS, vision, eye, retina

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Submitted: 2011-10-25 21:08:53
Published: 2012-03-08 18:37:42
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Copyright (c) 2012 Michael W. Stewart

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