[Optic neuromyelitis and bilateral acute retinal necrosis due to varicella zoster in a patient with AIDS]

J Fr Ophtalmol. 1998 May;21(5):381-6.
[Article in French]


We report a case of bilateral acute retinal necrosis (ARN) following an acute optic neuromyelitis (AONM) in an immunodepressed patient (T CD4 lymphocyte count under 50/mm3) suffering from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Despite the medical treatment the evolution led to blindness by bilateral total retinal detachment. The neuro-ophthalmological features occurred prior to the retinal manifestation, and the acute optic neuromyelitis occurred after a spreading zoster. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) seemed to be involved because of recurring cutaneous zoster, spreading of this zoster just before the AONM, previous reports showing a link between VZV and AONM, and VZV and ARN. However, our patient had first an AONM responding well to corticosteroid therapy following one month later by an ARN leading to blindness despite the antiviral treatments received as soon as possible. There is a chronical viremia+ in immunodepressed patients with recurring and spreading zoster. The rupture of the hemato-encephalic barrier observed in AONM could facilitate the invasion of the eye by the virus, leading to an ARN. This hypothesis could explain the two complications due to the VZV, the AONM and the ARN, the first one is of dysimmunitary origin and the second one could probably result of a direct viral attack of the retina. This should incite to treat as soon as possible each retrobulbar optic neuritis in patients with AIDS, especially if past history of zoster.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / complications*
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy
  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Female
  • Herpes Zoster / complications
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / complications*
  • Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / drug therapy
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / etiology*
  • Retinal Necrosis Syndrome, Acute / etiology*
  • Treatment Refusal


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Acyclovir