23 August 2012

Signs and Symptoms of Late Stages of HIV

HIV and Its Progression
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the term used to describe a retrovirus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. HIV is known to be a progressive disease that debilitates the immune system and eventually results in the diagnosis of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). As HIV progresses to AIDS, it could cause the occurrence of at least 20 known related illnesses that result from the compromised health of the immune system.

Initial Stage Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS)
This is the period of rapid HIV replication in the body that occurs two to four weeks after contracting HIV. As HIV levels in the blood increase, it results in acute HIV infection which is characterized by a drop in CD4 cell counts. CD4, alternately called T-4 cells send signals to activate the disease combating immune response that wards off sickness. In a HIV infected person the CD4 count falls to under 200 making the sufferer vulnerable to a host of infections and cancers. Many individuals experience flu-like symptoms during this period of infection. These symptoms can include fever, inflamed lymph nodes, chills, sore throat, rash and muscular aches. These symptoms may last from a few days to 4 weeks and then go away. Those that experience these symptoms often liken their suffering to 'the worst possible flu' which is what medical experts call Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS). It is also called Primary HIV Infection.

Chronic HIV Infection
During this phase, unlike in the initial ARS stage, HIV reproduces at very low levels, although it is still active. The estimated sufferers of HIV who are unaware of being carriers of the deadly HIV virus are likely to be so in part due to the characteristics at this stage of the disease. A HIV-positive individual can have an undetectable viral load and a healthy CD4 cell count without the use of medication through earlier years of this phase.

Though this phase may last upto even 8 years, one may not have symptoms or opportunistic infections. Towards the middle and end of this stage, the onset of constitutional symptoms of the HIV virus affecting the entire body such as fatigue, weight loss, fevers, night sweats and muscular aches can be seen. Recurring outbreaks of cold sores, mouth sores, genital herpes and diarrhea can also be suspected symptoms of HIV.

In women, abnormal pap tests, persistent yeast infections and cervical cancer can also be symptoms of presence of HIV virus in the body.

Late Stage of Hiv
An HIV-infected person may not develop the late stage commonly referred to as AIDS until 8 to 10 years after being infected. Normal CD4 counts in a healthy individual range between 500 and 1,600 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. As HIV progresses to AIDS, CD4 count falls to under 200 cells. As AIDS occurs, a collection of opportunistic infections that are usually severe, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis or cancers are seen.

HIV virus has no known cure. But with early treatment and strict adherence to medication regimen, many individuals continue to live active lives for several healthy years.

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