HIV and Neuropathy – What You Need to Know

Word Neuropathy. Medical concept.

HIV is a disease of the immune system, which means that it can lead to the development of many diverse symptoms and secondary problems. One common complication of HIV infection is peripheral neuropathy – a disorder of the peripheral nervous system. Here’s what you need to know about this problem so you can spot the signs early and get treatment that will help minimize symptoms!

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Your peripheral nervous system is made up of innumerable nerve endings spread across the body, all delivering signals back to your brain. In peripheral neuropathy, these nerve channels stop functioning correctly.

Sometimes, peripheral neuropathy occurs in HIV patients because of inflammation as a result of immune problems. Other times, it may occur as a response of antiretroviral medication. Peripheral neuropathy is also a common side effect of diabetes, which many HIV+ people also have.

Symptoms

The way neuropathy presents itself will depend on the type of neuropathy and the systems affected. Symptoms may include:

  • Unusual sensations or paresthesias
  • Loss of sensation in the extremities
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Unusual pain responses
  • Muscle weakness or loss of motor skills

Neuropathy symptoms are commonly felt in the hands and feet, but any system can be affected, including chest pain for thoracic nerve damage or facial pain for cranial nerve damage.

What Can You Do?

Fortunately, treatment options are available for reducing symptoms. Controlling your HIV infection is an important step; by maintaining a low viral load or changing antiretroviral medication types, you may find relief. Complementary therapies like acupuncture can also be supremely beneficial. You can contact your physician if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above and feel concerned!