Oral lesions want to tell you something
If you are living with HIV, you know that some symptoms in your body may be indicating something else. And you also know that you should pay special attention to the health of your mouth, since the mucosa that covers it can be quite vulnerable to certain effects.
Small and annoying injuries
They are small wounds inside the mouth that strongly make their presence known. Canker sores or mouth ulcers can be so annoying that they affect the quality of life of those who suffer from them, since they can make it very difficult to eat, swallow and even take medications.
In addition, people with HIV are more likely to develop this and other types of oral health problems, since the virus weakens the immune system and if treatment is not received, it can be more difficult to fight an infection.
According to some research, up to 50% of those living with HIV have mouth ulcers, and this figure rises to 80% in people who are in the AIDS stage.
Since people with HIV can be exposed to other infections, the Medical News Today news site helps review the possible causes of canker sores, and what their characteristics are.
• Oral herpes. It can cause red, painful sores on the lips, tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks. These types of wounds are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and although anyone can get it, those living with HIV are more at risk of having it as an opportunistic infection. The good news is that herpes is treatable.
• Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV infection can cause symptoms such as small growths or warts in or around the mouth. Usually these lesions are painless. However, it is important to diagnose this virus because it can be a predecessor of both oral and genital (penile and anal) and cervical cancer in women.
• Common thrush. They develop in the soft tissue inside the mouth. They are usually small and white. It is still not very clear why canker sores form, but factors such as injuries to the mouth, stress or a weak immune system can influence their appearance. Unlike the two types of injuries above, common canker sores are not contagious.
• Oral candidiasis. It is a fungus that appears as white or yellow patches on the tongue, palate, or inside of the cheeks. Although anyone can get it, babies, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Treatment to eliminate the infection consists of special mouthwash and medication.
• Dry mouth. HIV can cause the salivary glands to swell, which reduces saliva production and causes the mouth to become dry. Since saliva protects the gums and teeth from bacterial plaque, as well as helping to fight infections, its absence can facilitate the presence of microorganisms. Hydrating well and maintaining correct oral hygiene can help with this problem.
• Kaposi’s sarcoma. Considered an AIDS-defining type of cancer, this condition can appear as blue or purple spots inside the mouth (as well as on the skin, nose, or anus). Fortunately, this is a disease that has become less and less common thanks to antiretroviral treatments, which control the infection and help the immune system to recover.
Visit to the doctor
If you observe the lesion for a while, you may wait until your next medical visit to talk to your specialist about the problem. However, it would be best if your canker sores cause severe pain, last longer than 1-2 weeks, make it difficult or impossible for you to take your medicines, or make it difficult for you to talk or eat.
Remember that canker sores are common in people with HIV, but it is always important to look for and control the cause, both to end the discomfort and to avoid future problems.
If you already have an HIV diagnosis and you have not started your treatment, or if you suspended it and want to resume it, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Come to our offices in your country or write to us by Whatsapp.