The retinal lesions of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
AIDS is a reliably diagnosed disease that is indicative of an underlying cellular immunodeficiency with no other cause for the disorder. To date over 2000 cases have been reported in North America and Europe and the number is rising. Patients fulfilling the definition for AIDS have included male homosexuals, IV drug abusers of both sexes, people from Haiti, heterosexual partners of AIDS patients, hemophiliacs, and some patients who fit no particular pattern. The etiology has been attributed to factors acting singly or in synergy namely that repeated exposure to CMV, semen, or other antigens results in progressive cellular immunodeficiency, or alternatively, a novel virus has an etiologic role. The epidemiology of the syndrome suggests a horizontally transmissible agent. The spectrum of opportunistic infections observed in AIDS patients is well documented. A higher incidence of KS as well as squamous carcinoma of the oral cavity, cloacogenic carcinoma of the rectum, primary lymphomas of the brain, and systemic Burkitt's-like lymphoma has been noted. Seventy-one patients with AIDS were examined and followed during the course of their disease. Forty-one patients had definite retinal lesions at the time of examination. The most common intraretinal finding was CMV retinitis which displayed the typical white, crumbly areas of retinal necrosis and hemorrhage. Optic nerve involvement was quite common. The development of retinitis was a harbinger of eventual death as it was a progressive and a nontreatable disorder, lasting about 6 months. The second most common retinal finding was cotton wool spots, the lesions were usually present during the course of PCP and were due to microvascular damage in the retina from circulating immune complexes. No organisms were demonstrated in the retina. One AIDS patient who had been an IV drug abuser developed fungal retinitis due to Candida albicans. The patient eventually died from Candida sepsis. One patient had acquired toxoplasmosis retinochoroiditis. Examination revealed a large active intraretinal focus of infection. No other retinal lesion was noted. The patient, a homosexual, died from a toxoplasmosis brain abscess. The patient with AIDS is in a continuing struggle for survival against a myriad assortment of opportunistic infectious agents. Careful initial ophthalmological examination and long-term follow-up are mandatory.
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