What causes Kaposi sarcoma?
- Most people with this virus do not develop KS unless their immune system is suppressed. KS is rare in the United States and strongly associated with human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) infection.
- People with weaker immune systems are at risk of KS, including individuals who are taking medication to suppress the immune system after an organ transplant.
- It can be spread both sexually (even through saliva) and nonsexually, including via organ transplantation and breastfeeding. However, infection appears to be more easily spread through certain types of sexual activity, including oral-anal contact, oral-genital contact and deep kissing.
- The other factors for Kaposi sarcoma infection may include
- Unhealthy rural residency
- Lower socioeconomic status
- Countries where malaria is common
Like all herpesviruses, KSHV remains in our body for the rest of one’s life. If the immune system becomes weak in the future, this virus may have the chance to reactivate, causing symptoms.
What is Kaposi sarcoma?
Kaposi sarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessels or lymph system. Kaposi sarcoma is considered an acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) defining illness. This means that when it occurs in someone infected with HIV, then the person officially has AIDS (and is not just HIV-positive). The most common form of Kaposi sarcoma is associated with infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. The AIDS-related version of Kaposi sarcoma can be aggressive if it is not treated. Non-HIV related Kaposi sarcoma is rare. The symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are
- It is known for producing reddish or purple plaques on the skin. Kaposi sarcoma typically presents as purple or red patches or lesions made up of cancer cells, blood vessels and blood cells. The tumors may develop anywhere on the body and they often look like purple, red or brown skin blotches.
- It can form sores on the skin, spread to the lymph nodes and, sometimes, involve the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, heart and other organs.
- The lesions may grow in the skin, lymph nodes, internal organs and the lining of the mouth, nose and throat.
- Other common signs and symptoms may include
- Unexplained cough
- Chest pain
- Fever of unknown origin
- Stomach pain
- Intestinal pain
- Diarrhea and/or blockage of the digestive tract
- Lesions on the groin or legs, which block the flow of fluid out of the legs. This can lead to painful swelling.
- Patients may experience sores due to skin break down. Lesions in the digestive tract can cause internal bleeding. Signs of gastrointestinal bleeding are black or tarry stool.
- If lesions develop in the lungs, the person may have shortness of breath or they may cough up blood.
There are four types of KS based on the groups of people who are infected
- Classic KS: Mainly affects older men of Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent. The disease usually develops slowly.
- Epidemic (AIDS-related) KS: Occurs most often in people who have HIV infection and have developed AIDS.
- Endemic (African) KS: Mainly affects people of all ages in Africa, who are already immunocompromised and develop malaria as well.
- Immunosuppression-associated or transplantation-associated KS: Occurs in people who have had an organ transplant and are on medicines that suppress their immune system.
- Although the diagnosis is suspected from the appearance of lesions and the patient’s risk factors, a definite diagnosis can be made only by tissue biopsy and microscopic examination. The extent of the disease may be determined by medical imaging.
- KS is not curable, but it can often be treated for many years. Treatment is based on the subtype, the speed of growth, whether the disease is localized or widespread and the patient’s immune function.
- Treating HIV-infected patients with a so-called cocktail of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has dramatically lowered the incidence of Kaposi sarcoma in the United States.
- In tumors associated with immunodeficiency or immunosuppression, treating the cause of the immune system dysfunction can slow or stop the progression of the disease.
- The other treatments may include
- Antiviral therapy against HIV, since there is no specific therapy for HHV-8
- Combination chemotherapy
- Freezing the lesions
Treating KS does not improve the chances of survival from HIV/AIDS. The outlook of patients with KS depends on the person's immune status and how much of the HIV is in their blood (viral load). If HIV is controlled with medicine, the lesions often shrink away on their own.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top What Causes Kaposi Sarcoma Related Articles
HIV/AIDS HistoryGet a historical overview of the HIV/AIDS pandemic from human contraction to the present through this slideshow of pictures.
HIV/AIDS Facts: What Is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the precursor infection to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is transmitted through blood and genital secretions; most people get it through sexual contact or sharing needles for illegal IV drug use. HIV can be controlled by a strict drug regimen, but left unchecked, it leads to AIDS. In AIDS, the immune system collapses and the body falls prey to secondary, opportunistic infections and cancers that typically kill the person.
HIV/AIDS MythsWhat is HIV versus AIDS? What are the symptoms of HIV? Is there an HIV cure? Discover myths and facts about living with HIV/AIDS. Learn about HIV and AIDS treatment options, symptoms, and diagnosis.
What Are HIV & AIDS?HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Learn about HIV positive, being HIV positive, how HIV infection spreads, T-Cell counts, antiretroviral therapy (ART), viral load, Truveda, and other HIV/AIDS therapies.
HIV Life Expectancy and Long-term OutlookWith early diagnosis and proper treatment, people with HIV can live a healthy and long life. There is no generalized definitive period for which a person with HIV can live.
HIV vs. AIDSHuman immunodeficiency virus causes HIV infection. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a condition that results after HIV has extensively damaged a person's immune system. Risk factors for HIV and AIDS include use of contaminated needles or syringes, unprotected sex, STDs, receiving a blood transfusion prior to 1985 in the United States, having many sex partners, and transmission from a mother to her child.
HIV/AIDS QuizNow, more than ever, you should know about HIV/AIDS, especially its causes, symptoms treatments, and complications. Take the HIV/AIDS Quiz now!
HIV/AIDS PictureAcronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the cause of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). See a picture of HIV/AIDS and learn more about the health topic.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection left untreated causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Still incurable, AIDS describes immune system collapse that opens the way for opportunistic infections and cancers to kill the patient. Early symptoms and signs of HIV infection include flu-like symptoms and fungal infections, but some people may not show any symptoms for years. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the standard treatment for HIV infection. These combination drug regimens have made HIV much less deadly, but a cure or vaccine for the pandemic remains out of reach. HIV is usually transmitted through sexual contact or sharing IV drug needles, but can also infect someone through contact with infected blood. Sexual abstinence, safe sex practices, quitting IV drugs (or at least using clean needles), and proper safety equipment by clinicians and first responders can drastically reduce transmission rates for HIV/AIDS.
Pomalyst (pomalidomide)Pomalyst is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with multiple myeloma, AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma (KS), and non-AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma (KS). Serious side effects include severe birth defects and miscarriage when taken in pregnancy, venous and arterial thromboembolism, low white blood cells (neutropenia), low platelets (thrombocytopenia), low red blood cells (anemia), severe liver problems, and Severe allergic reactions and severe skin reactions.
What's a Virus?Is a virus alive? Learn the definition of a virus. Viral infections like COVID-19 can occur in your eyes, mouth, skin, or anywhere else. Should you use antibiotics to treat the flu? Is this STD a bacterium or a virus? Get the answers to the most common questions about viral infections.