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Symptoms of AIDS

HIV may not cause symptoms for a number of years or you may experience some early symptoms within 6-8 weeks of becoming infected. During this acute HIV infection, the virus is rapidly reproducing, and the body’s immune system is mounting a defense. The virus can easily be passed to other people during this period.

Initial symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Extreme, unexplained fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes in armpits, neck, or groin
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Night sweats
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain

After these initial symptoms are gone, there may be no symptoms for months to years, depending on your health status and lifestyle choices. It may be 10 years or longer before a person with HIV develops symptoms. Some infected people have had the virus for even longer periods without developing symptoms. Even though there are no symptoms, the virus is multiplying and damaging the immune system and can be passed on to someone else.

Once the virus sufficiently weakens the immune system, the following symptoms may occur over the course of 1-3 years:

  • Swollen lymph glands all over the body
  • Fatigue
  • Fungal infections of the mouth, fingernails, toes
  • Repeated vaginal infections ( yeast and trichomoniasis )
  • Development of lots of warts
  • Exacerbations of prior conditions, such as eczema , psoriasis , and herpes infection
  • Shingles
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Memory loss

Once HIV has progressed to AIDS, the immune system has become quite weakened and prone to opportunistic infections—infections that people with a normal immune system don't usually get. These infections occur in people with AIDS because the immune system isn't able to fight them off.

Examples of opportunistic infections and other complications of AIDS include:

Symptoms of these conditions (opportunistic infections and other complications of AIDS) include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing with blood-tinged sputum
  • Swallowing problems
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision loss
  • Severe headaches
  • Coma, but only in very severe cases of viral brain infection or terminal cases
  • Reddish, brownish, or purple spots on the mouth or skin

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Conn HF, Rakel RE. Conn's Current Therapy 2001 . 53rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2001.

HIV/AIDS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/ . Updated September 2008. Accessed September 25, 2008.

HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/ . Accessed September 25, 2008.

Noble J, Greene HL. Textbook of Primary Care Medicine . 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc; 2000.

5/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Chu C, Selwyn PA. Complications of HIV infection: a systems-based approach. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(4):395-406.



Last reviewed March 2011 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP


Last updated Updated: 5/6/2011

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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