AIDS and the Eyes

What is AIDS?

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

About two-thirds of people with HIV or AIDS develop eye problems. Almost any part of the eye can be affected. Problems can range from mild to severe.
People with HIV or AIDS are more likely to get certain infections that may affect the retina (light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye).

Infections can cause various problems, including:

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

Other eye problems that can occur with AIDS include:

  • Kaposi sarcoma, which is a slow-growing tumor that can appear as a red mass in the corner of the eye or as a purple nodule on the eyelid
  • Ocular shingles, in which the virus that causes chickenpox causes damage in and around the eye.

Finally, AIDS can often affect the brain.

  • 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 sarcoma)
  • blurred vision
  • watery eyes
  • red eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • swollen eyelids
  • eye pain
  • blisters filled with fluid on or inside your eyelids or elsewhere on your face

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