Cytomegalovirus retinitis is a condition of inflammation of the retina. Majority of adults, about 80%, are said to have the CMV antibodies in their system. Fortunately for most, the body successfully fights the infection before the disease can progress. Those who suffer are individuals with weakened immunity. 

Before the introduction of the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), the disease was very common among AIDs patients. About 25% of the patients developed cytomegalovirus retinitis. The disease results in blindness if left untreated.

Also Known As

CMV Retinitis

Causes and Risk Factors

CMV retinitis is caused by cytomegalovirus. The virus belongs in the herpes virus family and is associated with a low immune system. Those at the highest risk of developing the disease include: 

  • HIV/AIDs patients
  • Patients who have received an organ transplant such as a bone marrow transplant
  • Those taking immunosuppressive treatment e.g. cancer patients

Signs & Symptoms

At the onset, the individual may have symptoms such as floaters and blurry vision. They begin in one eye but later progress to the other. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • White infiltrates in the retina
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Blind spots (scotoma)
  • Light flashes (photopsias) 


The tests can include: 

  • Dilated eye examination – The test involves placing drops in the eye to make the pupil dilate. The dilation allows the doctor to view the eye properly.
  • Imaging tests – The tests include a fundus photography, an ophthalmic ultrasonography, and a fluorescein retinal angiography.

Prognosis/Long-term outlook

Progression of the disease can be regulated with treatment. However, the disease may sometimes progress even with treatment. Other times, it may recur. Doctors recommend a regular check-up every 3 to 6 months after treatment for proper monitoring. 
Without medication or surgery, patients can go blind in two to six months. When vision is lost, it cannot be restored. Other complications that are likely to occur without treatment include: 

  • Uveitis – Occurs where there’s inflammation inside the eye
  • Cataracts – This is the clouding of the lens
  • Retinal detachment – It is when the retina is pulled or pushed away from its normal location

Prevention/Follow Up

The best way to prevent cytomegalovirus retinitis is to maintain a high immune system. For AIDS patients, this is possible through HAART. Regular check ups for those with suppressed immunities also assist in detecting the disease early.