HIV/AIDS: Rheumatoid Conditions

HIV/AIDS was first detected amongst the human population of the earth approximately thirty years ago. Since then it has infected millions of people worldwide and affected their lives dramatically. HIV impacts the immune system of the infected individual and makes them more vulnerable to contracting other illnesses as the immune system is not capable of combating the various pathogens that spread these diseases. The virus also takes a toll on the rest of the body and a great many of those individuals infected with HIV find that they have a number of problems of musculoskeletal origin in addition to the suppressed immune system and its complications. In fact, it is not unknown for the individual infected with HIV to notice these musculoskeletal complications prior to discovering that they are infected with HIV.

Any person infected with HIV in any age group can be affected with rheumatic diseases. The most commonly affected age group is that of people between 20 and 40 years of age.

Studies indicate that some HIV medications can complicate matters by causing joint pain and muscle weakness. These can present as inflammatory myopathy, osteonecrosis, osteoporosis and lipodystrophy. They may even induce autoimmune diseases in which the body's immune system attacks healthy tissue.

The most common rheumatic symptoms associated with a concurrent HIV infection are typically swelling of the joints as well as pain in the joints and muscle tissue. It is possible for individuals with HIV to contract psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, polymyositis (which is an inflammation of the muscles), fibromyalgia, vasculitis (which is an inflammation of the blood vessels) and an infection of the joints, muscles and bones.

The rheumatic disease can be caused by the decreased immune function allowing the infection of the joints and muscles by bacteria or virus. Since it is not uncommon for the rheumatic disease to present with clear symptoms before the HIV infection is detected, medical practitioners will test for HIV if the patient is in a high risk group or engages in the relevant risk taking behaviour. A positive HIV test will act as confirmation of HIV-associated rheumatic disease.

It has been found that HIV treatment will cause the cessation of the HIV induced rheumatic disease in most individuals. However, it is important to note that not all rheumatic diseases in HIV positive individuals are caused by the HIV itself. It could be caused by some other deficiency.

It is important that any person who may have been exposed to HIV monitor themselves closely and report any unusual symptoms to their medical practitioner. The earlier HIV is detected the more effective the antiretroviral treatment has been found to be. If you do suffer from HIV-associated rheumatic conditions it is important that you report this to your medical practitioner so that either your medication can be altered if that is a potential cause of your problems or additional treatment can be given to address the problem and increase your comfort levels. The sooner you get the right treatment the better off you will be.

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