What Happens If We Get AIDS?

Medically Reviewed on 6/10/2022
What Happens If We Get AIDS?
Most people who have HIV will not acquire any AIDS-related diseases and will live a relatively normal lifespan.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes damage to the cells that make up your immune system and reduces your body's capacity to fight against various illnesses and infections. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a group of diseases and illnesses that may be fatal if a person's immune system has been severely compromised by HIV

Because HIV damages your immune system, it becomes more difficult for you to defend yourself against pathogens that might cause illness. You may start to see signals all throughout your body as the virus weakens your natural defenses and causes them to become compromised.

Treatment for HIV/AIDS

There is no cure for HIV at this time; however, there are pharmacological therapies that are highly successful, and these medicines allow the majority of individuals with HIV to enjoy a long and healthy life. Moreover, these medications lower the risk of transmission of HIV. 

Most people who have HIV will not acquire any AIDS-related diseases and will have a lifetime that is very close to that of a normal person if they get an early diagnosis and adequate treatment.

Understanding the pathology of AIDS

Your immune system has a wide variety of white blood cells that work together to eliminate pathogens. The human immunodeficiency virus replicates itself once it is within CD4 cells, which are a specific sort of cells in the immune system.

  • The cell is killed by the virus, and the newly created viruses then travel in search of additional cells to infect.
  • Your immune system reacts by producing more CD4 cells, but after a period, it just isn't able to keep up with the virus's rate of replication.
  • As a result, your immune system will become compromised.

You have an increased risk of being ill from even the seemingly harmless pathogens. Infections tend to persist longer, be more severe and return more often when they do occur.

Acute vs. chronic HIV infection

Acute infection

Although a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individual may not experience any severe symptoms at this stage, there is often a high amount of the virus present in their blood due to the fast reproduction of the virus.

Acute symptoms might include:

Chronic infection

The following stage, which is termed the chronic infection stage, follows the acute infection stage. It may even endure up to 10 or 15 years or longer if taken care of properly. During this stage, an HIV-positive person may or may not exhibit signs or have symptoms of having the virus. The virus multiplies at a very slow pace during this stage. 

When an HIV-infected individual does not take treatment for a long time, they wind up in the advanced stage of the disease called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The person gets several infections and is even at the risk of certain types of cancer. AIDS affects almost every part of the body and is fatal if left untreated.


A Timeline of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic See Slideshow

How AIDS affects your body?

Effects of HIV on the eyes

Some issues affecting the eyes are very minor, whereas others may be so serious that they lead to total blindness. Infections, which may lead to bleeding in the retina (the tissue at the back of the eye), and retinal detachment are among the most frequent causes of retinal problems.

About 7 out of 10 people with untreated AIDS will have problems with their vision connected to AIDS, most often brought on by cytomegalovirus. You might not notice any problems until they are pretty bad, so people with advanced HIV need to get regular eye exams. 

Call your doctor if any of the following occur to your eyesight:

  • You get blurry or double vision.
  • You see spots.
  • You get redness or discharge from the eyes.
  • You feel uncomfortable in bright light.
  • Your eyes hurt.

Effects of HIV on the kidneys

HIV is linked to both high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are major causes of kidney disease. Your blood pressure and blood sugar will stay in check if you eat well and exercise regularly, which is good for your heart. This keeps your kidneys healthy.

Some medicines for HIV can hurt your kidneys. If you already have kidney problems, your doctor may want to keep an eye on how these drugs affect you or tell you not to take them. 

Your kidney functions will need to be checked often by your doctor because you might not notice the signs of kidney disease.

Effects of HIV on the digestive system

Because HIV affects the immune system, it makes the body more prone to infections that can hurt the digestive system. Problems with the digestive tract can make it hard to eat well and decrease appetite. Because of this, HIV often causes people to lose weight.

  • Oral thrush is a common infection caused by HIV. It is a fungal infection that makes the tongue and inside of the mouth swell up and get white patches.
  • Oral hairy leukoplakia is another viral infection that affects the mouth. It makes white spots on the tongue.
  • Salmonella is spread through contaminated food or water, and it makes people throw up and have diarrhea and stomach pain. Salmonella infection can occur to anyone, but people with HIV are more likely to get very sick from it.

Effects of HIV on the circulatory system

Several factors increase heart-related risks. Your body will be inflamed while it fights HIV, like it's on a continual boil. This inflammation causes heart disease.

HIV medications may cause cardiac problems. Insulin resistance and fat breakdown difficulties might result. Diabetes also causes cardiac problems. You may require diabetes and cholesterol medications.

Effects of HIV on the central nervous system

HIV infects the cells that support and surround neurons in the brain and body. Infected support cells likely contribute to nerve injury in HIV-affected people. AIDS can cause serious problems with the brain and nerves.

  • HIV and AIDS can cause a condition called HIV-associated dementia, which makes it hard to think clearly.
  • Toxoplasma encephalitis is another possible complication of AIDS.
  • People with AIDS who have a weak immune system are more likely to get inflammation of the brain and spinal cord from this parasite. Some of the symptoms are confusion, headaches, and fits.
  • Some infections of the nervous system can cause seizures.

Some common problems caused by HIV and AIDS include:

Effects of HIV on the skeletal system

People with the virus lose bone more quickly than those without it. Your bones may become weaker and more likely to break. Your hips may hurt and feel weak. This could be caused by the virus itself, the inflammation it causes, the medicines you take to treat HIV or related diseases (such as steroids or antacids), or an unhealthy lifestyle. It could be a sign of a lack of vitamin D, which is common in people with HIV.

Medically Reviewed on 6/10/2022
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