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Weight gain, general bloating, is it IRIS?
Dec 14, 2007

Hi there. I recently (5 weeks ago) started HAART after 8 years of being pos but not being on any meds. My blood counts were always acceptable, but over the last 12 months my vigour diminished to such an extent that I just had to do something about getting the viral load down in order for my immune system to regroup. I have been put on Kivexa (Abacavir/Lamivudine) and Viramune (Nevirapine). Almost immediately I saw a huge improvement in my energy levels and general well-being, within the first week. I also saw a tightening of my abdomen, for some time it had been distended, I was found to have had an ulcer and had bad reflux, so I was put on a proton pump inhibitor (Somac) about 8 months ago and though this drug stopped the acid issue, it really did nothing for the distention. I was checked for parasites and nothing turned up, also for helio, nothing there either. I was advised 2 weeks ago to take Metamucil for a few weeks to see if the issue was resolved. Anyway, immediately after commencing HAART I noticed my abdomen feeling tighter and reducing in size, this went on for the first couple of weeks at the same time my whole body was feeling more alive and active. But in the last week the distention has returned as bad as ever, it is not accompanied by any excess gas and in fact my stools have improved since beginning therapy 5 weeks ago, and where they were usually sloppy, they have become very firm now. This happened before I started the Metamucil. But the situation now is that I still have the distended abdomen and discomfort, but not really any large amount of gas and no problem with my bowel movements. I have also noticed that I have started to put on weight quite quickly in the last 3 weeks or so, I'm not eating any more than usual, but my weight is climbing 1 or 2 kilos a day. I looked in the mirror today and I actually looked fat, which is just not me. And where yesterday I was 96 kilos, today I am 100 at 185cm. My question to you is this; I have been reading about IRIS and all I can see is that it causes inflammation in certain areas when latent infections are recognised by an awakening immune system, but cannot find anything to suggest that it might cause all over bloating and weight gain in the short term. To your knowledge, are you aware of any reports of people starting HAART and blowing up like Godzilla for a short while during the initial phases of therapy? If I knew this was just something connected with IRIS or indeed just starting therapy, I might be able to relax somewhat and ignore how big I'm getting. I know that some types of HAART have been reported to cause weight changes in the long term, but is there any evidence that weight gain/inflammation can happen in the very short term while the immune system is waking up?

Thankyou so much for your help.


Response from Dr. Henry

Some patients can gain weight fairly rapidly after starting effective HAART. The risk for IRIS is generally related to how low the CD4 count is (not as common if CD4 > 200 while much more common if CD4 < 50). The regimen you are taking has a good track record at NOT causing much in the way of fat problems relative to many other regimen so switching your HIV meds around would not predictably help out much. KH

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