Systemic Eye Diseases

AIDS and the Eyes

AIDS and the Eyes

What is AIDS?

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a life-threatening illness caused by infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV attacks the body’s immune system. Then the immune system cannot protect the body against infections and tumors.

How does AIDS affect the eyes?

About two-thirds of people with HIV or AIDS develop eye problems. Almost any part of the eye can be affected. The problems can range from mild to serious.

People with HIV or AIDS are more likely to get certain infections that can affect the retina (light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).

The infections may cause various problems, including:

  • problems with blood vessels in the retina, including bleeding
  • cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis (infection of the retina)
  • retinal necrosis (death of some tissue in the retina)
  • retinal detachment.

Other eye problems that can occur with AIDS include:

  • Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is a slow-growing tumor that may appear as a red mass on the corner of the eye or a purple nodule on the eyelid
  • herpes zoster ophthalmicus, in which the virus that causes chickenpox causes damage in and around the eye.

Finally, AIDS often can affect the brain. Changes in the brain may cause:

  • problems with eye movement
  • blurred vision
  • double vision
  • blindness

What symptoms are associated with AIDS-related eye problems?

Symptoms may include:

  • painless loss of vision
  • bright red growth near the corner of the eye (Kaposi’s sarcoma)
  • blurred vision
  • watery eyes
  • red eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • swollen eyelids
  • eye pain
  • fluid-filled blisters on or inside your eyelids or elsewhere on your face.