Top 5 skin diseases among people living with HIV

Around 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), and 1 in 8 are not aware of their infection.

This virus weakens the human immune system and makes individuals susceptible to skin disorders and cancers. Approximately 90 percent of people living with HIV are at risk of developing various skin changes and symptoms. They may appear as rashes, sores or lesions and can be triggered by the immune system and HIV, infections (bacterial, fungal or viral) or be treatment-related side effects.

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Diagnosing HIV-related skin changes can be important, as they may be the early signs of the disease.
Here are some of the more common skin conditions related to HIV disease:

1. Different types of dermatitis (e.g. seborrheic dermatitis, xerosis) are characterized by dry, itchy, and a flaky rash. Treatments for dermatitis usually include one or more of the following: topical moisturizers, steroids or antihistamines.

2. Herpes zoster (Shingles) is caused by a chickenpox virus. It appears as a painful skin rash that looks like water blisters involving a limited area in a stripe or on one side of the body. Two to four days before the rash appears there may be pain or tingling in the area. Usually, it heals within two to four weeks, but may spread to other parts of the body. The rash is contagious until all the blisters are dry. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles. This skin condition is treated with antiviral medicines.

3. Herpes simplex virus lesions are blistering sores in the mouth or on the genitals accompanied by itching. One can also experience many symptoms that are similar to the flu. These symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, tiredness, and lack of appetite. The herpes simplex virus is a contagious and can passed from person to person through direct contact. Treatment involves antiviral medications.

4. Warts can appear anywhere on your skin after you are exposed to Human Papillomavirus. Warts are raised bumps and most often will be the color of your skin or slightly darker with the cauliflower-shaped top. Usually, warts grow in clusters, but may appear as one or two. They are contagious and are spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Topical treatment is prescribed to treat warts.

5. Kaposi’s sarcoma is a cancerous tumor that appears on skin as lesions of purple, red, or brown color and in different shapes and sizes. The lesions may also bleed or ulcerate when its surface breaks down. Kaposi’s sarcoma often appears on the face, the nose or mouth, or around the genitals or anus, but it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. The treatment for this tumor involves chemotherapy, radiation, antiviral drugs.

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Written by Anna Vinogradova

Post Snapshot

HIV puts you at risk of developing skin disorders and cancers.

Most common are

  • Dermatitis (e.g.seborrheic dermatitis, xerosis)
  • Herpes zoster
  • Herpes simplex
  • Common Warts
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma

Symptoms of these conditions can be treated or alleviated by over the counter medications.

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