Varicella zoster virus retinitis in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is known to be a devastating disease. We studied a series of six consecutive patients that sheds new light on the clinical manifestations and treatment options of this disorder. All patients had episodes of cutaneous zoster, long-term exposure to oral acyclovir, and CD4+ T lymphocyte counts less than 50 cells/mm3. Two of the six patients had simultaneous radiographically demonstrable and histologically proven varicella zoster virus encephalitis; this is an important association. Histologic examination of autopsy specimens disclosed that the retinal infection by varicella zoster virus involves the retinal pigment epithelium more heavily than the inner retina, which is consistent with the characteristic clinical impression of an outer retinal necrosis.