What is HIV retinopathy?

Updated: Jul 21, 2021
  • Author: Luca Rosignoli, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew A Dahl, MD, FACS  more...
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HIV retinal microvasculopathy once occurred in as many as 50-70% of HIV-infected patients. [10] However, it is likely that the increased use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has lowered the prevalence of the retinal microvasculopathy.

Arteriolar occlusion in HIV retinal microvasculopathy leads to interruption of the axoplasmic flow and the subsequent accumulations of axoplasmic debris, which manifests as cotton-wool spots.

The specific etiology of the microvascular changes has not been elucidated completely. The cause of retinal microvasculopathy in patients who are infected with HIV is similar to that suggested for conjunctival vascular changes, namely increased plasma viscosity, immune-complex deposition, and a direct cytopathic effect of the virus on the retinal vascular endothelium.

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