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Part of An HIVer's Guide to Metabolic Complications

December 2005

Today's HIV medications allow HIV-positive people to live longer, healthier, more active lives than ever before. However, these powerful meds can have a wide range of side effects.

One group of health problems feared by many HIV-positive people is what doctors call "metabolic complications." They include:

  • Lipodystrophy (changes in body shape and appearance)

  • Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels (which can increase the risk for heart disease)


  • Blood sugar problems (such as diabetes, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance)

  • Bone and joint problems (such as osteoporosis, osteopenia and osteonecrosis)

  • Lactic acidosis (an increased concentration of lactic acid in the blood)

What Is a Metabolic Complication?

When most of us think of "metabolism," we think about eating, and rightly so: Our bodies metabolize, or change, food into the energy we need to stay alive. But metabolism is about more than just eating -- it has to do with all of the ways in which our bodies create and use energy.

In some cases when you develop a "metabolic complication," it means that your body's ability to create or use energy has somehow gone wrong. HIV experts are still trying to figure out exactly what causes each of the metabolic complications and what the best ways are to treat them.

On the plus side, a lot has been learned over the past few years. Researchers now have at least a rough idea of how you can avoid some of the worst metabolic complications -- and how you may be able to treat any that you already have.

In this booklet, we'll tell you all about the possible causes of metabolic complications, some possible ways to prevent them from happening, and what you should do if you start having any symptoms.

Copyright © 2005 Body Health Resources Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by Body Health Resources Foundation. It is a part of the publication An HIVer's Guide to Metabolic Complications.