HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). It is possible to be infected with HIV without symptoms of AIDS. By the time symptoms of the virus appear, the immune system is already severely damaged. Signs and symptoms of AIDS range from infection to different types of cancer. Viruses and other bacteria easily invade the body in individuals with AIDS, causing problems that would not affect healthy individuals.
AIDS symptoms can be mild to severe. After becoming infected with HIV, mild symptoms of AIDS include weight loss, fever, night sweats and weakness. Flu-like symptoms are common initially, including sore throat, chills, fever and swollen glands.The symptoms go away much like the flu virus. It is possible to have HIV and live for years with no symptoms of AIDS.
As the HIV virus continues to destroy the immune system, symptoms progress to rashes, yeast infections of the skin, herpes, rapid weight loss and lack of energy. Fever may come and go. Cough, difficulty breathing, headache, neck pain, cognitive decline, diarrhea and abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and loss of balance are all signs and symptoms of AIDS.
Identification of HIV
HIV lowers the amount of immune fighting blood cells in the body, called T-cells, or T-helper cells. A blood test, called a CD4 count, identifies low T-cell counts. When an individual infected with HIV develops AIDS, CD4 blood counts fall below 200, leading to a diagnosis of AIDS. Low CD4 cell counts are a sign that a person has developed AIDS from becoming infected with HIV. Other infections can also affect CD4 blood count levels, as can certain medications. Your doctor will correlate physical signs and symptoms of AIDS while monitoring blood work.
Types of Cancer Associated with AIDS
AIDS makes individuals prone to Kaposi sarcoma, a type of skin cancer that develops when the immune system is compromised. Lymphoma and cervical cancer can also develop. Kaposi sarcoma is a sign of AIDS that appear as round spots on the skin and in the mouth. The lesions are brown, purple or red in appearance. Kaposi sarcoma from AIDS can invade other organs of the body.
AIDS Symptoms in Children
Children are prone to frequent opportunistic infections, just as adults are. Normal development is impaired, and weight gain is difficult. Developmental delays are evident by difficulty learning. Pneumonia and throat and ear infections that occur frequently are signs and symptoms associated with children who have AIDS.
The CDC recommends HIV testing as the only way to be certain you do not have AIDS. AIDS signs and symptoms can take up to 10 years to develop, and the disease can be spread unknowingly. You cannot depend on symptoms to tell if you have AIDS. Specific criteria, established by the Centers for Disease Control, constitute a definite diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. Weight loss, fever, rashes and other symptoms do not necessarily mean you have AIDS. If you believe you are at risk, you can have a confidential blood test for HIV.