A Project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the Internet at http://www.aidsinfonet.org
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Fact Sheet Number 504
WHAT IS CMV?
opportunistic infection. The virus is very
common. Between 50% and 85% of the
US population tests positive for CMV by
the time they are 40 years old. A healthy
immune system keeps this virus in check.
When the immune defenses are weak,
CMV can attack several parts of the body.
This can be caused by various diseases
including HIV. Combination antiviral
therapy has reduced the rate of CMV in
people with HIV by 75%. However, about
5% of people with HIV still develop CMV
The most common illness caused by CMV
is retinitis. This is the death of cells in the
retinas, the back of the eye. It can quickly
cause blindness unless treated. CMV can
spread throughout the body and infect
several organs at once. The risk of CMV
is highest when CD4 cell counts are
below 50. It is rare in people with 100 or
The first signs of CMV retinitis are vision
problems such as moving black spots.
These are called “floaters.” They may
indicate an inflammation of the retina.
Patients may also notice light flashes,
decreased or distorted vision, or blind
spots. Some doctors recommend eye
exams to catch CMV retinitis. The exams
are done by an ophthalmologist (an eye
specialist.) If your CD4 count is below
100 and you experience any vision
problems, tell your doctor immediately.
Some patients who have recently started
using anti-HIV medications can get
inflammation in their eyes, causing loss of
vision. This is called immune restoration
syndrome (See Fact Sheet 473.)
HOW IS CMV TREATED?
The first treatments for CMV required
daily intravenous infusions. Most people
had a permanent medication
inserted into their chest or a