What is HIV Rash?
AIDS or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome is caused by the HIV (Human Immuno Deficiency). It is a condition where the virus enters the human body and attacks the white blood cells that protect the body from bacteria and virus. In this scenario, they are destroyed and their numbers are reduced considerably (<200). It results in weakening of the immune system and the body is left susceptible to attacks by foreign bodies that can easily harm the health.
The most common symptom of HIV infection is the onset of HIV rashes. Commonly people develop flu like symptoms when infected by HIV. But, flu like symptoms can occur in a variety of health conditions. Therefore, proper observation of the rashes becomes increasingly important to diagnose HIV infection correctly.
Types of HIV Rashes
- Acute HIV rash – Spreading all over the body, they appear as small elevations on the skin. They are red in color because they are maculopapular. The rashes appear within six weeks of being infected by the virus and lasts up to a few weeks.
- Herpes Zoster rash – These rashes appear on limbs on both sides and then move towards the trunk. It happens because the rashes occur in the area of the skin that is supplied by the same nerve. In HIV positive individuals, these rashes appear to be widely spread across the body. The rashes are painful and appear as bumps filled with fluids. The bumps may also form crusts on the skin after they have broken down. Lasting for a considerably larger period, they may reoccur over time.
- Molluscum Contagiosum Rash – Appearing in the form of pink vesicles with umblications, they have a firm structure. They remain for a longer period in case of HIV patients and cause disfigurement. Also, they are up to three times larger in people who are HIV positive. If the virus has been transmitted sexually, they appear in the abdomen, inner thigh regions and the genitals. In children, the rashes appear in the upper body and the limbs. They usually last for about 2 weeks, but the time-period is longer for those who have weakened immunity due to HIV.
- Drug Induced Rash – These rashes are caused by the intake of anti-HIV drugs or anti retro viral medicines. They are 2 to 10 mm in size and red in color. They are similar in appearance to rashes caused by measles and are found on the upper body and limbs but not on the face. Within weeks of starting the medication, the rashes start to appear. Mild rashes may appear within 2 weeks after intake of the medication and can get cured within a week. Severe skin conditions like Steven Johnson Syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis are life threatening and can even cause death as it affects 30% of the total surface area of the skin.
- Herpes Simplex Rash – The rash is caused due to the herpes simplex 1 and 2 viruses. They appear during the early stages of the HIV infection as a slight elevation in the skin with a red center surrounded by a well-defined boundary. It contains fluid filled vesicles that form ulcers when they breakdown. Rashes caused by herpes simplex 1 affect the area around the mouth and lips, while those caused by herpes simplex 2 are found in the genitals. These rashes tend to reoccur and a 14 day anti biotic treatment is required to reduce the rate of recurrence.
Other Skin Problems related to HIV
- Eczema – It is a disease that affects the topmost layer of the skin known as the epidermis. It causes redness, irritation and itchiness on the skin. It results in inflammation of the epidermis and one might suffer from this condition throughout lifetime.
- Psoriasis – It is an auto immune disease lasting for a long period of time. The skin cells build up to form scales along with abnormal patches that are itchy and dry.
- Scabies – Skin infestation caused by tiny burrowing mites known as Sarcoptes scabiei that is contagious. It includes small red bumps and blisters that appear in certain areas of the body. It is characterized by intense itchiness.
- Seborrheic dermatitis – It is a condition that commonly affects the scalp and other oily areas of the body such as the upper chest, back and face. It causes red skin and scaly patches. It can also cause stubborn dandruff.
- Atypical presentation of Measles – Rash appears within 1 or 2 days. It is an altered form of measles and is characterized by high fever, cough, headache, abdominal pain, etc. It may cause swelling of the feet and hands while appearing at the beginning of the limbs.
- Folliculitis – Infection in one or more hair follicles is known as folliculitis. They appear as small white heads around the hair follicles. They are capable of causing scarring and permanent hair loss. They may also be painful and itchy. Antibiotics may be consumed to treat the condition or it may get cured on its own in mild cases.
Causes of HIV Rashes
- Allergic reaction – An individual affected by HIV may suddenly become hypersensitive or allergic to substances that did not affect them before. As a result, people may become extremely sensitive to sunlight or allergic to certain chemicals. This happens because HIV affects and alters the working of the immune system.
- HIV infection – Rashes appear commonly as repercussions of viral infections. HIV is a viral infection and rashes are the most common way in which HIV manifests itself. People experience changes in their skin at one stage or another due to this disease.
- HIV medication – Anti HIV medication and nonnucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors are capable of causing rashes. It is the most common side effect of these medications. Women are observed to be more prone to these rashes as compared to men.
- Opportunistic infection – HIV affects the immunity of the individual and even petty illnesses that can be easily overcome by a person not been affected by HIV, cannot be easily overcome. This allows certain diseases such as diabetes to affect HIV positive people very easily and they are known as opportunist infections.
Symptoms of HIV Rashes
- Enlargement of lymph glands
- Loose stools
- Body aches
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in breathing
- Kidney damage
- Mouth sores
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Hazy or blurred vision
Diagnosing HIV Rashes
- HIV test
- Skin test
- Blood test to determine the kind of infection
Treatment for HIV Rashes
- Medication – Steroids and antihistamines can be taken to treat such conditions. If an individual is affected by herpes simplex and herpes zoster, they can use anti viral medication for the treatment. In case of rashes caused due to Molluscum contagiosum, liquid nitrogen and laser treatment are advisable.
- Other health conditions – Nevirapine is commonly prescribed during pregnancy. Although it has many advantages, it may also cause rashes as a side effect. It is important to take an informed decision about its continuation while keeping in mind the effects it has on the patient. Alternative groups of medicine can also be suggested in place of those that cause the rashes.
- Changes in lifestyle – Individuals who show signs of the rashes must switch to soft and light fabrics that allow the skin to breathe and avoid itching. Loose fitting clothes should be worn to avoid discomfort. As people become hypersensitive, they must stay away from extreme conditions. Patients need to avoid going out in the sun or taking a bath with extremely hot or cold water.
When to visit a Doctor?
Rashes may occur due to several health conditions. However, HIV is a serious infection which requires medical care. Since its symptoms do not manifest themselves in extreme ways, it becomes difficult to decipher the kind of infection a person may be suffering from. Hence, in order to rule out any other causes of the rashes, a doctor must be consulted so that the individual can get the correct medical help that is needed.