CMV retinitis 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; newborns, elderly, people receiving chemotherapy and organ transplant recipients are vulnerable to its effects. It is less common in people with HIV or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) who are taking anti-retroviral therapies, but still a risk. 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. 

The virus may also spread from shingles on the forehead and nose in older adults with weak immune systems.

Symptoms of CMV Retinitis

Many people with CMV retinitis experience no symptoms. However, there are certain signs that may be indicative of the virus:

  • Floaters in the eye
  • Flashes in the eye
  • Blurred vision 
  • Blind spot in vision 
  • Loss of peripheral vision

These symptoms may appear in one eye first, then to the other eye. Retinal detachment may also occur with CMV retinitis.

If you have a weakened immune system, you should have your eyes examined regularly to help identify any eye health issues early. 

Treatment for CMV Retinitis

A person with a weakened immune system experiencing any of the above listed signs should see their eye care professional as soon as possible. The first step may be strengthening your immune system. 

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,

Medication (oral, injected or intravenous): Used to slow the progression of the disease.

Laser Surgery: To strengthen the retina, if damaged. 

If you have had CMV retinitis you should have your eyes examined regularly to help identify any eye health issues early as recurrence is common.