How AIDS can affect vision

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HIV can affect any part of the eyes, from more superficial regions such as the eyelids, to deep tissues such as the retina, vitreous and nerves, causing diseases such as retinitis, retinal detachment, Kaposi’s sarcoma, in addition to various types of eye infections.

The chances of having the vision affected by the infection are greater when the disease is in more advanced stages, due to the immune changes caused by the disease, as well as opportunistic infections that take advantage of the fall in immunity to install.

After infection with the HIV virus, it is possible to remain without any symptoms for many years, until the state of low immunity facilitates the existence of infections and diseases in various organs, including the eyes, so it is very important to avoid this complication with disease prevention and testing for early detection. Know the main symptoms of AIDS and how to know if you have the disease.

The main eye diseases caused by HIV are:

1. Injuries to blood vessels

Microangiopathies are lesions in the small eye vessels that cause occlusions of blood flow or bleeding, which can change the visual capacity of the affected person.

Treatment is usually done with antiretroviral therapy, such as Zidovudine, Didanosine or Lamivudine, for example, used under the guidance of an infectious disease specialist. Understand how AIDS treatment is done.

2. CMV retinitis

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is quite common in HIV carriers, being capable of causing retinitis with lesions in small blood vessels, which affect important structures of the eyes and can impair vision. This infection usually occurs in cases of AIDS with a significant drop in the levels of the CD4 defense molecule, which may be below 50/mcL.

The treatment for this infection is done with the use of antiviral agents, such as Ganciclovir, Foscarnet, Aciclovir or Valganciclovir, for example, which are indicated by the infectologist. Antiretroviral therapy is also important to prevent a worsening of immunity and ease of infections.

3. Varicella zoster virus infection

Ocular infection with varicella zoster virus usually causes very serious infections, with levels of CD4 defense molecules below 24/mcL. This infection is called progressive retinal necrosis syndrome, and it is characterized by the formation of lesions in the retina, which can enlarge and compromise the entire retina, leading to its detachment and loss of vision.

The treatment is done with the continuation of antiretroviral therapy, however, it is not always possible to have an improvement in the condition and visual recovery.

4. Ocular toxoplasmosis

People whose immunity is weakened by the HIV virus are more likely to acquire ocular toxoplasmosis, which is transmitted mainly through consumption of contaminated water and food. This infection mainly affects the vitreous and retina, and causes symptoms such as decreased vision, sensitivity to light or eye pain.

The treatment is done with the use of drugs with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. In some cases, the ophthalmologist may perform surgeries such as photocoagulation, cryotherapy or vitrectomy, as a way to reduce the complications of the disease. Learn more about what toxoplasmosis is, how it is caught and how to treat it.

5. Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a tumor characteristic of HIV-infected people, which affects any region that contains skin and mucous membranes, and can also appear in the eyes, and seriously affect vision.

Treatment is with antiretroviral therapy, chemotherapy, and, if necessary, eye surgery. Understand better what Kaposi’s sarcoma is and how it arises.

6. Other infections

Several other infections can affect the vision of people with HIV, and some include herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia or candidiasis, for example, all of which must be treated by the infectologist in conjunction with the ophthalmologist.

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