Rheumatic diseases can affect your life with HIV

Rheumatic diseases can affect your life with HIV

Rheumatic diseases are a set of disorders that mainly affect the bones, tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles; that is, the bone and muscle system, responsible for the mobility of the body.

For people living with HIV, rheumatic diseases present themselves in a specific way, either caused by the infection itself or by antiretroviral treatments, especially those that include older generation drugs.

Consequences of HIV

It should be noted that signs of rheumatic disease can appear even before HIV is detected, however, not all rheumatic diseases indicate that a person has HIV.

Among the diseases of this type that can be favored by the infection are joint pain, arthritis, muscle pain, weakness and fatigue, indicates the website of the American College of Rheumatology.

In addition, you should know the fact that when you have arthritis and HIV, manifestations outside the joints, such as uveitis, which is an inflammation of the eyes, may be more frequent.

A characteristic of rheumatic diseases is that they produce pain and inflammation in the joints, the soft tissues around them or in the muscles, and they occur in up to 5% of people who have been diagnosed with HIV.

Related rheumatic diseases

Less frequently than stated above, they can also occur in people with HIV:

• Infections in joints, muscles and bones

• Psoriasis arthritis

• Reactive arthritis

• Muscle inflammation (polymyositis)

• Fibromyalgia

• Inflammation of the blood vessels

All these conditions are caused by the ravages of HIV in the body of a person who does not take treatment, but it is necessary to know that the antiretroviral drugs themselves can also cause problems in the musculoskeletal system.

Consequences of ARV treatment

Antiretroviral treatment can facilitate the onset of rheumatic diseases such as:

• Gouty arthritis

• Tenosynovitis (inflammation of the covering of a tendon)

• Osteonecrosis

• Osteoporosis

Fortunately, the drugs that were associated with these consequences are no longer recommended for people with HIV to start with, so there is no need to worry that the rheumatic diseases mentioned will occur in people with HIV who are currently receiving treatment.

Paradoxically, the success of antiretroviral treatment can also cause a significant inflammatory reaction, called inflammatory reconstitution syndrome, during which CD4 T cells recover as the body’s defense system.

If you feel any significant discomfort in your bones, joints or muscles, it is best to raise your concern with your health team, who will design the way to manage the problem.

Remember that other viruses or bacteria can also cause rheumatic problems, so if you live with HIV and have some other simultaneous infection, this is the one that could be causing the problem.

Diagnosis and treatment

The proper use of antiretroviral treatment has notably decreased the frequency of rheumatic disease among people with HIV, since, in addition to blocking the negative effects of the virus itself, it has also been observed that, if such diseases do occur, they are less severe.

Common treatments with pain medications and anti-inflammatories appear to be sufficient to effectively control rheumatic problems, including swelling, pain, and fever.

However, in cases in which there is no improvement with these standard treatments, it would be necessary to consult with the HIV service to find out if it will be necessary to suppress the immune system and thus control the disease. To this could be added physical rehabilitation therapies in order to preserve functionality.

Now you know, take care of rheumatic diseases to live a fuller and healthier life with HIV.

If you or someone you know is living with HIV and for whatever reason has not started their antiretroviral treatment, come to AHF and we will gladly accompany you. Locate our nearest office in your country or write to us by Whatsapp.