Despite incredible medical advancements in treating and managing HIV/AIDS, complications can, and do, develop, especially when it comes to your skin. More than 90% of those who are infected by HIV experience skin problems, which makes having an expert and experienced dermatology team in your corner important.
Such a team can be found at Z-Roc Dermatology. Led by Drs. Khongruk Wongkittiroch and Matthew Zarraga, we offer specialized HIV dermatology services that help you stay on top of the numerous complications that can affect your skin.
Here’s a look at the dermatologic conditions associated with HIV/AIDS and how we can help you protect and preserve your body’s largest organ — your skin.
Common skin conditions associated with HIV
As your body’s largest organ, your skin’s primary role is to stand between you and the outside world, shielding you from foreign invaders. To perform its frontline job well, your skin contains several types of immune cells that fight off bacteria, as well as viral and fungal infections.
With HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, your immune system is compromised, leaving you more vulnerable to infectious pathogens. When it comes to your skin, this weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to skin conditions such as the following.
There are many different types of herpes, but those that tend to develop in HIV-positive people are herpes simplex and herpes zoster. More seriously, if you’re infected by herpesvirus-8, you can develop complications, namely Kaposi's sarcoma, which is a form of cancer (more on this below).
Herpes tends to be cyclical and, depending upon the type of herpes, symptoms include:
- Shingles — painful rashes on one side of your body
- Sores around your mouth and genitals
To treat herpes viruses, we typically turn to antiviral medications.
Kaposi’s sarcoma typically only develops if you're severely immunocompromised, and your T4 cell counts are very low, at which point you cross over into an AIDS (autoimmune deficiency syndrome) diagnosis.
This type of cancer can present itself as dark lesions on your skin and also cause swelling in your tissues.
The good news is that the highly active antiretroviral drugs taken by people who are infected by HIV can go a long way toward preventing and treating Kaposi’s sarcoma. Should problematic lesions develop, we’re experts in Mohs surgery, a technique in which we can safely and completely remove cancerous lesions without incurring collateral damage to your skin.
People with HIV often develop thrush, which is a fungal infection that affects your mouth, leaving you with a thick, white layer on the inside.
Through antifungal medications and mouth rinses, we can help you manage these infections.
This is a highly contagious skin infection that leads to bumps on your skin that are usually pink or flesh-colored. People who are infected by HIV are not only more vulnerable to this viral infection, outbreaks can be more severe, with 100 or more bumps.
While these bumps don’t typically pose further problems, they don't go away on their own, which is where we come in. Through topical ointments or cryosurgery, we can help remove the effects of molluscum contagiosum.
The examples we’ve outlined here are some of the more common skin conditions associated with HIV infection, but there are more. The bottom line is that, when you’re infected by HIV, you need to pay close attention to any problem that develops in your skin and seek immediate help. We can do our part by performing regular skin checks to catch potential problems in their earliest stages, which makes treating them easier.
If you’d like to learn more about the dermatological risks that come with HIV, contact our office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to set up an appointment.