Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that compromises a person’s immune system. It’s spread through unprotected sexual contact with someone who has HIV or through contact with infected blood.
HIV can lead to AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. With a weakened immune system, your body is at higher risk for serious infections, illnesses, and certain cancers.
Unfortunately, HIV can’t be cured. If you contract the virus, you’ll have it for the rest of your life. But the good news is that HIV can be treated to slow progression and prevent AIDS. When treated early and consistently, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives.
An important element of HIV care is skin care. Your skin is your largest organ, and an estimated 90% of people living with HIV will have an HIV-related skin condition at some point.
If you have HIV, find expert skin care at Z-Roc Dermatology in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Khongruk Wongkittiroch, DO and Matthew Zarraga, DO offer compassionate, effective diagnosis and treatment for sores, lesions, skin cancer, and more. In the meantime, here is some helpful information about HIV and how it affects your skin.
HIV weakens your immune system
HIV attacks your white blood cells. White blood cells are the cells in your body that fight infection and keep you healthy. If you have HIV, your white blood cell count gets low and your body can’t fight infection effectively.
HIV generally has three stages. The first stage is an acute HIV infection. Symptoms develop two to four weeks after infection occurs, and can appear like the flu. During the first stage, there’s a high amount of the HIV virus in your blood and the virus is very contagious.
The second stage is HIV inactivity. This stage can last anywhere from 10 years to several decades if you’re taking medicine to treat HIV. There may not be many symptoms during this stage, but you can still transmit the disease to others.
Stage three of HIV is AIDS. People with AIDS have extremely weakened immune systems and suffer an increasing number of illnesses and infections.
If left untreated, HIV can progress quickly and develop into AIDS in just a few years. There are a number of medications that can slow the progression of HIV, improving your health and quality of life for many years.
How a weak immune system affects your skin
For some people with HIV, skin conditions are one of the most obvious signs of infection. Skin conditions can appear in the earliest stage of HIV, but may increase in frequency as the disease progresses.
HIV weakens your immune system, so your body is more likely to develop infection since it can’t fight disease effectively. Common skin conditions that people with HIV experience include:
- Bacterial infections
- Viral infections
- Fungal infections
- Parasitic infections
- Inflammatory dermatitis (rashes)
- Skin cancer
Inflammatory dermatitis can take many forms, and it’s common for people with HIV. Dermatitis can appear like areas of dry skin or red and itchy patches. Some examples of skin infections that people with HIV may contract include syphilis, oral thrush, and shingles.
Another condition that can develop if you have HIV is lipodystrophy. HIV can cause fat distribution in the body to change, resulting in fat loss around the face or fat buildup between the shoulder blades or elsewhere.
Taking antiretroviral medications for HIV generally helps reduce the number of skin conditions that people with HIV develop. Along with taking medication, getting regular skin exams and seeking treatment for specific skin conditions can help them from getting worse. For patients bothered by fat loss from HIV lipodystrophy, Sculptra® Aesthetic at Z-Roc Dermatology is an injectable filler to fill contours and improve your appearance.
Trust our team for all your skin care needs. Make an appointment at Z-Roc Dermatology online or call our office today.