They’re called the windows to the soul, but the eyes can also be a trouble spot for HIVers. Are they itchy? Burning? Sensitive to bright light? Feel as though you’ve got some schmutz stuck in ’em? Get checked for keratoconjunctivitis sicca (med-speak for “dry eyes”), common in HIVers due to HIV-related eye inflammation—and easily treated with lubricating eye drops. Far more serious (and far less common than before HAART) is CMV (cytomegalovirus) retinitis, which can cause blindness. Some 75 percent of HIVers have CMV (it’s in the herpes-virus family), but it’s no biggie unless T cells drop below 50. Then it can attack the back of the eye, where vision is processed. Keeping T cells high above harm’s way with effective HAART is the best prevention against retinitis, otherwise treated with high-powered antivirals like Foscavir (foscarnet) and Cytovene (ganciclovir). Best ocular advice for all HIVers? Visit an HIV-savvy ophthalmologist at least once a year—just to keep an eye on things.
Dem Dere Eyes
June 1, 2003 • By David Gelman, MD