Kenneth O. Sparks, M.D.
Vitreo-Retinal Surgery & Ophthalmology

Appointments online or call 323-655-8036
Services & Treatments


AIDS-Related Eye Diseases

AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is a disease caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that attacks the T-cells in your body. T-cells belong to a group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, and these cells are essential to your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. Without a strong immune system your eyes are very susceptible to viruses, diseases, and infections.

Normal Retina

Affected Retina

How can my eyes be affected by AIDS?

There are various eye problems that result from AIDS; about 75% of AIDS patients will suffer from an eye disorder or condition at some point. The retina, which is the light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye, is usually affected the most. Hemorrhages or fluffy spots are early sings of an AIDS-related eye infection and can be detected during an eye exam with Dr. Sparks.

What types of eye problems or conditions can AIDS cause?

  • Red Eye: Your eye can become red and sensitive for long periods of time due to an infection in the eye.
  • Cotton Wool Spots: AIDS can cause bleeding and white spots in and around the retina, which is caused by inflammation of the retinal blood vessels. The name is derived from their appearance—they look like fluffy cotton balls—and they tend to disappear in a few weeks.
  • Herpes, Toxoplasmosis and Zoster: Common eye infections for AIDS patients.
  • Kaposi’s Sarcoma: A noncancerous tumor that may appear on any part of your body, including your eye or eyelid. It appears as a purple-red bump on the eyelid or a spot on the white of your eye. There are several treatment options for this growth, including radiation, laser therapy, or cryotherapy.
  • CMV Retinitis: This is the most serious AIDS-related eye disorder and occurs in about 30% of AIDS patients. It is more prevalent as the disease progresses and the patient’s white blood cell count declines. Symptoms of CMV infections include floating spots, spider’s web or cob web floaters, flashing lights, blurred vision, and blind spots. CMV Retinitis does not always have symptoms, so it is recommended that AIDS patients have regular eye exams to assess the health of their eyes.

What are the symptoms of an eye infection?

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, blurred or double vision, problems with eye movement, growths on the eye or eyelid, ocular pain, or decreased vision. Development of these symptoms in the context of AIDS or HIV should prompt immediate concern.
Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular degeneration (AMD) typically affects older adults.
Uveitis refers to the inflammation of the uvea. It also may refer to any type of inflammation to the interior of the eye and not just the uvea.
Diabetic Retinopathy
High blood-sugar levels can damage retinal blood vessels in the back of the eye.
Glaucoma Treatment
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve.