HIV and pain
Medical science has developed hundreds of tests to measure, evaluate and detect all kinds of things, but there is no laboratory test for pain. Although the mechanisms by which it occurs are known, quantifying it depends entirely on the perception of the sufferer.
Although it doesn’t represent a threat to health, pain greatly affects people’s quality of life, that’s why it is important to be treated and to manage it. For those living with HIV, it is important to know that pain may occur at various times during the infection, and that it can have various causes.
There are many types of pain that can be caused by HIV itself, other infections or diseases, or even antiretroviral drugs. Health personnel should investigate to find out what causes it and thus provide the best treatment, but here we list some of the pain that occurs most frequently in people with HIV, according to the specialized website The Well Project.
• Peripheral neuropathy: This is a pain caused by nerve damage, mainly in the feet or hands, and can feel like tingling, numbness or burning.
• Abdominal pain: This can be due to various causes, for example, some of the antiretroviral drugs, bacteria, colitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. In this case, its origin is easier to trace.
• Headache: It could be related to antiretroviral treatment (and it is temporary), but also to serious conditions such as infection in the brain, tumors or strokes.
• Bone, joint, or muscle pain: Also associated with some antiretroviral drugs, but it could be caused by arthritis, bone disease (such as osteoporosis), or the aging process.
• Herpes sore: Herpes is a set of viruses common in people with HIV. These viruses remain in the body for life, and can resurface at various times. For example, shingles is pain along the nerves caused by herpes zoster, while certain mouth or genital sores are due to simple herpes types 1 and 2.
• Other: People living with HIV may experience painful skin lesions caused by some antiretroviral drugs or infections. Diseases such as pneumonia can cause chest pain. Canker sores or painful lesions in the mouth can be caused by oral candidiasis, and some cases of cancer also cause pain in advanced stages.
Just because these kinds of pain are common when you’re living with HIV doesn’t mean you should put up with them without taking action. When this symptom occurs in any part of your body, talk to your medical team to find a solution.
And remember that at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we work for quality care that is free of discrimination for people with HIV from all backgrounds. If you have not started or want to resume your antiretroviral treatment, we can support you, just come to our offices in your country or write to us on Whatsapp.