Cytomegalovirus retinitis : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

Note: Many patients with CMV retinitis have no symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Blind spots
  • Blurred vision and other vision problems
  • Floaters

Retinitis usually begins in one eye, but often progresses to the other eye. Without treatment, progressive damage to the retina can lead to blindness in 4-6 months or less.

Even with regular treatment, the disease can worsen to blindness. This may be because the virus becomes resistant to the drugs so that the drugs are no longer effective, or because the patient’s immune system has deteriorated further.

Patients with CMV retinitis also have a chance of developing retinal detachment, in which the retina detaches from the nerves of the eye, causing blindness. Systemic CMV infection also can occur.

Diagnosis & Tests

CMV retinitis is diagnosed through a standard ophthalmologic exam. Dilation of the pupils and ophthalmoscopy will show signs of CMV retinitis.

CMV infection can be diagnosed with blood or urine tests that look for substances specific to the infection. A tissue biopsy can detect the viral infection and presence of CMV virus particles, but this is rarely done.


Review Date : 12/1/2009
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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