Peripheral Neuropathy and HIV/AIDS
Signs of PN include:
It may be easy for you or your health care provider to overlook slight or occasional sensations like the ones listed above. Do not ignore these symptoms, as they may get worse. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider right away so that you can receive early diagnosis and treatment.
Your health care provider will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms, medications and supplements, work environment, exposure to toxins, history of alcohol use, and family history of neurological disease. Usually, PN is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms you report. However, your health care provider may also order tests to determine the type and extent of nerve damage. Blood tests to rule out other potential causes of PN are most common.
If your symptoms are unusual, your provider may refer you to a neurologist, who may suggest nerve conduction velocity (NCV) testing or an electromyography (EMG) test for further evaluation. NCV looks at the speed of the signals your nerves send, and EMG looks at whether your muscle can respond normally to an electrical signal from a nerve. Other types of sensory testing and skin biopsies are generally used in research.
Unfortunately, there are no approved medical treatments to cure PN. For now, the key to treating PN is to remove the cause and control the pain. If HIV drugs are the cause of the PN pain and those drugs are stopped when symptoms of PN are first noticed, the pain most often goes way. However, this may take up to eight weeks since nerves are slow to heal.
Removing the Cause
It is important to take your HIV drugs on schedule and as prescribed so that your viral load stays low and your CD4 count remains high. This way, you can minimize HIV's effect on your nervous system.
If you are on a d-drug, talk to your health care provider about stopping or switching the drug. If you decide to stop or switch a drug, it may take six to eight weeks for the PN symptoms to decrease. If the symptoms continue, the PN could be due to HIV.
Relieving the Pain
Controlling the pain can require a combination of drugs and other therapies. Remember to discuss any medications, supplements, or therapies you are currently using with your health care provider.
The easy way to remember the keys to early diagnosis, treatment and management of PN is to think AIMS:
Awareness -- Take the time to notice what your body feels like and how you move.
Information - Never stop asking questions, reading, trying new drugs, therapies, or tools.
Medical Team -- Choose health care providers who are knowledgeable about HIV and neurological problems and listen to you and answer your questions.
Support -- Finding support is critical. Peer organizations or local HIV support groups can offset the sense of helplessness and isolation felt by many people who experience chronic pain. Talking with peers can give you an opportunity to share your frustrations and successes with those who understand what you are going through.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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