Common Complications of HIV

By

Dan Brubaker

Was this helpful? (1)
This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.
x

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR

Finding the Right HIV 'Cocktail'

There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to choosing an HIV treatment regimen.
portrait-of-stressed-man

Infections disrupt your body’s ability to do what’s needed to keep you healthy. Like a virus on your computer, they prevent you from carrying out certain tasks or using certain systems. In the case of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the target is your immune system—your body’s natural defense. A computer virus acting similarly would target your virus protection software, undermining your computer’s ability to ward off future infections.

Without a strong immune system protecting you, you become vulnerable to health complications ranging from additional infections, to cancers and nerve issues.

Opportunistic Infections

Many infectious germs will take advantage of a weakened immune system. Doctors call the illness that results an opportunistic infection. If you have HIV and contract an opportunistic infection, you will receive a diagnosis of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An AIDS diagnosis signals that the HIV infection isn’t under control.

The list of opportunistic infections includes illnesses caused by fungi, parasites, viruses and bacteria. Many of these germs don’t pose a major threat to people without HIV. But for people with HIV, these infections are serious. Viruses like herpes affect people with HIV more severely, potentially leading to pneumonia or an esophagus infection. Bacteria like Salmonella—ingested with contaminated food or water—more easily lead to diarrhea, nausea and vomiting in people with HIV.

The most common infection associated with HIV is Tuberculosis (TB). A strong immune system can handle TB infection without issue. And in fact, one-third of the world population has TB in its inactive form. But for people with HIV and weak immune systems, active TB infection is a hundred times more likely to develop. Globally, TB is the leading cause of death among people with HIV.

Hepatitis Infections

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, 25% also have hepatitis C, and 10% have hepatitis B. Opportunistic infections crop up more in HIV patients because their defenses are down. But hepatitis B and C are more common because, like HIV, you can easily contract these viruses by sharing needles and drug paraphernalia with an infected person.

Complications from hepatitis B are more severe for those who also have HIV. And chances of a fatal outcome from hepatitis C triple in people with HIV.

Other Complications

Alongside infection, an HIV diagnosis also puts you at risk of other medical complications. A few forms of cancer are more common among those with HIV. These include cervical and anal cancer, Kaposi sarcoma-often discovered on the skin, as well as lymphomas—cancers of the immune cells. HIV also increases your risk of kidney disease, with black HIV patients being especially prone because of their genetic susceptibility.

Mentally, you may feel confused, depressed and anxious. People with an AIDS diagnosis may develop more severe disorders of the nervous system. You may experience aches, numbness or burning sensations in your extremities because of nerve damage. And HIV-associated dementia, also known as AIDS dementia complex (ADC), can lead to loss of memory and judgment.

How Treatment Helps

Now for the good news. In comparison to the 1980s, opportunistic infections are much less common today. People with HIV are living longer than ever before. In fact, HIV is now considered a chronic disease. What changed? Well, scientists have made incredible breakthroughs in treatment. And, with heightened awareness of HIV, more people are taking the available medications.

HIV treatment involves antiretroviral therapy that reduces the amount of the virus in your body. By taking the necessary oral medications as prescribed you can slow down the debilitating effect HIV has on your immune system.

Was this helpful? (1)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 16, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Complications. HIV/AIDS. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/basics/complications/con-20013732
  2. DeFoe JD, Phelps KS. HIV/AIDS. In: Domino FJ et al, eds. The 5-Minute Clinical Consult Standard 2016. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2016:512-513.
  3. HIV/AIDS Drugs Complications and Side Effects. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Treatment/Pages/complications.aspx
  4. HIV/TB Coinfection. Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing Practice. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/ToolsTemplates/EntertainmentEd/Tips/HivTb.html
  5. McArthur JC et al. Neurological complications of HIV infection. The Lancet. 2005;4:543-555.
  6. Opportunistic Infections. HIV/AIDS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/opportunisticinfections.html
  7. Pulmonary Complications of HIV. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/7/15-0500_article
  8. Treatments and drugs. HIV/AIDS. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/basics/treatment/con-20013732
  9. What is hepatitis? Hepatitis B. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/staying-healthy-with-hiv-aids/potential-related-health-problems/hepatitis-b/index.html
  10. What is hepatitis? Hepatitis C. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/staying-healthy-with-hiv-aids/potential-related-health-problems/hepatitis-c/index.html
  11. World AIDS Day – Coinfection with HIV and Viral Hepatitis. Viral Hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hiv-hepatitis-coinfection.htm

Your opinion matters!



Please fill out this short, 1-3 minute survey about Getting the Best HIV Treatment. Your answers are anonymous and will not be linked to you personally.

The survey will appear at the end of your visit.

Thank you!

A survey will be presented to you after you finish viewing our Getting the Best HIV Treatment content.

You Might Also Like

Share via Email

PREVIOUS ARTICLE:

7 Surprising Facts About HIV

NEXT ARTICLE:

What HIV Can Do to Your Skin