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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Elevated White Blood Cell Count and Headache
Feb 6, 2001

I recently went to see my doctor because I had a pretty strong headache for about three days off and on. He checked me out and had my blood drawn. The blood test revealed my WBC count was high and that my platelets looked abnormal---he wasn't specific about "abnormal." He said my symptoms looked possibly like "mono", but also stated he couldn't be sure. He asked me if I had a concern about possible HIV infection. I knew that I'd had a possible exposure some seven months earlier and I'd tested negative within three months of that exposure. I did not retest because I did not know about the six month window. At the end of my visit, he prescribed a medication for my sinuses and he told me if the headache did not go away to return. Well, the headaches have gone away and only arise very infrequently, but when they do arise, they are strong---not severe. I am not a sinus sufferer! In HIV related cases, what is the norm regarding headaches? Would they be severe? Consistent? Where are they typically located? How does HIV infection affect the WBC count? I'm scared and don't know anyone to talk to. Can you help me?

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your questions. Recurrent sinusitis is common in the general population, though appears to be more severe or more common among those with HIV infection. Sinus headaches are typical for any sinus infection, and the severity and location is related to the degree of infection, and not to HIV, per se. My best advice is to get tested, treatment of HIV can definitely help if this is the cause, and diagnosis (either positive or negative) can certainly alleviate the stress of not knowing. BY

Sweating Hands, Feet and Neck
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