Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Cytomegalovirus is a virus that causes different illnesses indifferent groups of people.
What is going on in the body?
Cytomegalovirus, also known as CMV, is a common infection. Although lifelong, thevirus usually remains quiet in the tissues of the body after the initial infection.It can, however, be shed in the mouth, urine, and genital tract, serving as asource of infection for other people. CMV can also cause a second, moresevere infection if the immune system becomes weak for any reason.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Most people have been infected with CMV by the time they areadults. People with who are at risk for severe disease include:
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms primarily depend on the age of the person andthe strength of his or her immune system.
CMV may infect a healthy unborn baby while it is still in thewomb. Roughly 5% of infants who get CMV this way have serious birthdefects. These can include brain damage, growth failure, blindness, andother defects. This problem usually occurs when a pregnant mother getsa CMV infection for the first time during pregnancy.
When CMV happens in early childhood, it usually causes nosymptoms at all. This is thought to be the most common form of CMV infection.
During the teenage and young adult years, infection with CMVcan cause a syndrome called infectious mononucleosis,or “mono.” Mono generally causes symptoms of sore throat, fatigue, fever, andswollen glands. These symptoms can last for weeks or even months. Most peoplerecover without treatment.
CMV can cause serious problems in people with weakenedimmune systems. This problem is most common in people withAIDSor those taking drugs to suppress the immune system. People with widespreadcanceror people who receive an organ transplant are commonly affected. Infection maybe due to a first-time infection or, more often, a reactivated infection. Peoplewith AIDS often get an infection of the back of the eye, called the retina. Thistype of infection is calledretinitis.This may cause problems with vision. In transplant and cancer patients,CMV usually is the cause of pneumonia or a gastrointestinal infectionthat causes diarrhea.
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the disease diagnosed?
The virus can be detected in various human tissues and evengrown from these tissues in the laboratory. Because most people haveCMV in their bodies, the significance of finding CMV depends on the situation.For example, CMV found in a baby in the first 2 weeks of life usually meansthe baby was infected inside the womb. A positive CMV result at any othertime in life could mean a new infection or a reactivation of old CMV. Specialtests may be useful in some cases to determine whether or not a CMVinfection is new or old. A CMV infection of the eye can often be diagnosedby its appearance in people with AIDS.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the disease?
Frequent, thorough hand washing and personal hygiene shouldlimit a few ofthe new cases spread from a person shedding CMV. Because CMV isso common, however, prevention is quite difficult. Special blood filters andtesting of donated organs may prevent a few cases.
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
For most healthy people, a CMV infection has no long-termeffects.
An unborn baby who is infected in the womb may have:
An eyeinfection in a person with AIDSmay result in blindness. CMV pneumonia or gastrointestinal disease intransplant patients may cause death.
What are the risks to others?
People who shed CMV can pass it to others. For most peoplewho get CMV, however, the infection is not serious.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the disease?
Otherwise healthy people who have CMV do not usually needtherapy. For people with severely swollen tonsils, a medicine such as
Antibiotics such as
What are the side effects of the treatments?
All medicines may have side effects. These may includeallergic reactions,stomach upset, and other problems. A low white blood cell count is the mostcommon side effect of
What happens after treatment for the disease?
People who are healthy and get treatment can return to their usualactivities once they recover. No further monitoring is generally needed. Peoplewho have weakened immune systems may need more careful monitoring for longperiods of time, possibly for the rest of their lives.
How is the disease monitored?
For a CMV infection of the eye in people who have AIDS, repeatedexams of the eyes and vision testing are needed. Affected people shouldreport any change in their vision. For people with pneumonia or gastrointestinaldisease, symptoms, a physical exam, and other blood and X-ray tests arecommonly used for monitoring. Any new or worsening symptoms shouldbe reported to the doctor.
Article type: xmedgeneral