What Are Common AIDS Complications?
The acquired immunodeficiency disease syndrome (Aids) is a complicated disease.
When someone has this syndrome, the complications can be from mild to severe.
AIDS is caused by a virus called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). If you get infected, your body will try to fight it. This “fight” produces antibodies. When you get tested for HIV, these antibodies are what the lab test is looking for.
This article will discuss some of the complications that can occur with AIDS. For example, let’s discuss a patient that has AIDS, and they suddenly start feeling very fatigued, has a productive cough, nausea, and diarrhea.
I will also be discussing how to properly care for your immune system if you are diagnosed with HIV.
What IS AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a weakness in the immune system that helps the body fight diseases. A syndrome is s group of health problems that make up a syndrome.
If you or a loved one have AIDS, then you know the feelings that are involved. Do you start to wonder if you will be ostracized? You wonder if people will start to treat you differently.
Nervous System Complications of AIDS
Many times people diagnosed with AIDS have mental status changes. There are several reasons for this. Sometimes people have AIDS dementia.
AIDS Dementia Complex develops when brain cells die. Infection with HIV-1 can induce dementia despite the successful administration of life-prolonging highly active antiretroviral therapy.
The virus enters the CNS early in the course of the disease and causes both direct and indirect CNS effects. Dementia affects are not usually seen until the HIV virus becomes AIDS.
Neurological impairment affects 60% of HIV/Aids patients. Although the virus enters the neurological system early on in the infection, it can lay dormant for decades.
Forgetfulness is an early symptom of HV encephalopathy. HIV/AIDS can cause dementia.
Signs that AIDS Patients Are Getting Dementia
- Forgetting to take their medication
- Sleeping problems
- Agitation and outbursts of anger
- Hallucinations and delusions
Sometimes patients will come into the hospital because their loved ones state: “they are acting strange”. At times, I have witnessed patients not knowing who they are, or who their loved ones are.
Some of these people are young people under the age of 40.
Respiratory Complications of AIDS
Often time the first symptom that a patient has is pneumonia. Specifically, PCP pneumonia or Pneumocystis pneumonia is an infection caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii.This virus
Is an opportunistic virus. This means that this fungus usually attacks when a person’s immune system is compromised. Although PCP is a fungus, it does not respond to anti-fungal treatment.
In today’s time, people are less likely to get PCP pneumonia because of the very successful drugs that we have today to treat HIV/AIDS. Pneumocystis jirovecii used to be called Pneumocystis carinii.
In some medical journals, PCP is now called PJP.
This pneumonia can be devastating to a person diagnosed with AIDS. The person will most likely have to be put on oxygen.
Often, the person has to be put on a ventilator. The fungus basically just takes over the lungs because of the compromised immune system.
The HIV / Aids complications of pneumonia have a high rate of morbidity.
The treatment of choice is Bactrim. This medication is given by mouth or IV for 3 weeks.
Cardiac Complications of AIDS
Cardiac disease in AIDS patients could be caused by infectious complications of AIDS, AIDS medical therapies, or HIV infection of the myocardium.
The myocardium infection can cause fluid to build up around the heart, or cause congestive heart failure to occur. If the person becomes septic, it can cause low blood pressure.
Some cardiac complications associated with HIV/AID are:
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Coronary artery disease
- An aneurysm
- Cardiac tumors
- Heart Failure
- Aids dementia complex
If a person is septic, and they also have HIV / AIDS they can be very ill. Sepsis usually requires admission into the intensive care unit.
During this time, the patient can have low blood pressure because of a blood infection. Often in order for the blood pressure to come back up, the patient will need plenty of fluids.
Sometimes fluids are not enough, and they will need vasopressors to bring up the blood pressure. When a patient gets to this point, they are quite ill and they need critical support.
Patients with AIDS cardiac complications requires the same treatment as other patients who do not have the syndrome.
How To Prevent HIV /AIDS Complications
Often times, people are not aware that they have HIV until they get an opportunistic infection. An opportunistic infection is an infection that you would get when your immune is decreased.
For example, thrush is an opportunistic infection. Thrush is a fungus that feeds on sugar. A low carb or keto diet has been proven to help treat thrush.
HIV does not always lead to AIDS. In fact, the medication that we have today called HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy), has greatly extended the life of HIV/ AIDS patients.
Avoid unprotected sex- Even if you have unprotected sex with someone diagnosed with HIV, you cannot get “reinfected”, but you can get that person’s strain of HIV which will make your disease process more complicated.
Eat a healthy diet – low carb diet It is crucial that a person diagnosed with HIV eat a healthy diet. They should limit processed foods, sugar, and bad fats. A has been shown to be effective.
Exercise- In populations with chronic illness, infection, or disease, there is a growing body of evidence showing that health benefits can be obtained by incorporating aerobic exercise into the individual’s recovery and/or treatment plan.
Years ago, when someone was diagnosed with HIV, it was considered a terminal disease. This is no longer the case. With the invention of medications that are effective, patients diagnosed with HIV can live a long time.
My name is Phyllis Robinson MSN, RN. I have been a Registered Nurse for 27 years in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I am passionate about cardiac care and heart disease. I also want this blog to be an educational tool that people can refer to for traditional and alternative treatment. I will blog on heart disorders such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and high cholesterol.
I received my Nursing degree from Baltimore Community College.
I went on to receive my Masters in Nursing from Walden University
I have worked for almost 30 years in Critical Care with a focus on heart health. I am an advocate of preventive healthcare.