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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Jun 27, 2010

I became positive sometime around 5 years ago, I'm 29 now, about to start meds. I was sick a while back, took some Bactrim, I've taken it before w/ no problem but this time it made me very sick so I stopped it completely. However at the same time, maybe related?, my hands & 1/2 way up my arms began getting very numb, it is extremely painful and has continued to somewhat of a lesser degree since for about 3 months now. It sometimes feels like a sharp stabbing at worst or just pins & needles or just numb like nothing at all. I sometimes drop things b/c I can't grip; I haven't ever felt numbness like this only maybe very minor I thought from sleeping on my arm but this happens throughout the day, maybe worse in a.m. though. So anyway my doctor, who I've only breifly seen, says its for sure HIV related & lots of patients go through this, that I need meds which I am starting. She said that the HIV is starting to cross the blood brain barrier and that I am highly susceptable for getting HIV dementia but if I start meds it will slow this "crossing". I am devistated, I thought it could've been carple tunnel but its the beginning of dementia at 29 yrs old? My numbers are not so bad either just average I guess CD4 ~350. Is she right about HIV folks & numbness then leading to dementia?

Response from Dr. Henry

Your hand/arm numbness could be related to your HIV infection but standard HIV-related peripheral neuropathy usually starts in toes and feet-unusual to have upper extremities involved first. I would also consider other possibilities including carpal tunnel (as you mentioned) or other nerve entrapment syndromes (either distal or in axilla or C-spine area). A thorough evaluation including possibly consultation with a neurologist may be helpfu.In US a CD4 count of 350 is an indication to start HIV meds but not clear if your hand problems are HIV related without more information. KH

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