Hiv AIDS and The Eye
How HIV AIDS effect the eyes?
HIV, AIDS AND THE EYE
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes a breakdown of the body’s immune system.
Your immune system fights off illness and infection and is essential to maintaining a healthy body.
Once HIV is present in the body, it attacks important white blood cells in your immune system called lymphocytes, or T-cells. T-cells identify and destroy invading organisms in the body. Once attached to the T-cell, HIV replicates and destroys the cell. When your body is deprived of enough T-cells, it can become very sick from infections that a healthy person’s immune system would normally fight off, such as colds, flu and other viruses.
When is a person with HIV considered to have AIDS (acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)?
The process of destroying T-cells and replicating HIV may go on for years. This is why many people infected with HIV do not get sick with AIDS until years later. You are considered to have AIDS when your immune system is no longer able to keep you healthy.
How does AIDS affect the eye?
Because HIV causes a breakdown of your body’s immune system, all areas of the body are susceptible to infection, including the eye.
AIDS-related eye problems can include the following:
Cotton wool spots.
This is the most common eye problem occurring in people with AIDS. Cotton wool spots are white spots that form on your retina-the thin layer of Iight-sensitive tissue lining the back of your eye. The white spots are called ”cotton wool spots” because they Iook like small cotton balls. These spots may cause tiny amounts of bleeding, but they do not normally threaten vision.
A more serious eye infection that occurs in about 20-30% of people with AIDS is CMV retinitis. It is caused by a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). It usually occurs in people who have more advanced stages of AIDS in which T-cell count is very low. Symptoms include inflammation of the retina, bleeding and vision loss. If left undiagnosed and untreated, CMV can cause severe vision loss within a few months.
You should see your ophthalmologist immediately if you experience:
- Floating spots or “spider-webs”;
- flashing lights;
- blind spots or blurred vision.
CMV retinitis cannot be cured, but progression of the virus can be slowed with medication.
CMV can sometimes cause the retina to pull away, or detach, from the back of the eye. A detached retina is a serious problem that causes severe vision loss unless treated. Almost all retinal detachments require surgery to put the retina back in its proper position.
Kaposi’s sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in AIDS patients. This cancer can cause purple-red lesions to form on the eyelids, or a red, fleshy mass to form on the conjunctiva-the thin, filmy membrane that covers the white part of your eye. Kaposi’s sarcoma may look frightening, but it usually does not harm the eye.
Can HIV be contracted through tears?
While HIV can be found in tears of infected people, no cases of AIDS have ever been reported from tear contact. Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.s) are especially careful in cleaning lenses and instruments that come in contact with tears.
Here at The Eye Centers of Racine & Kenosha we keep up to date on new research and new treatments. Call 262 637 0500 today! to scheduled your appointment.
Have a question about HIV, AIDS and the eye? ASK US
Take your first step toward clearer vision.