What you need to know:
- HIV and AIDS dementia has a meagre prevalence rate, but it is essential to be aware of the symptoms in order to manage them when they occur.
- Though HIV and AIDS dementia is a progressive disease, it can be slowed down with medication and non-medication treatments.
If diagnosed with this condition, make sure you work closely with your doctor to ensure an optimal outcome for yourself or someone in your care.
HIV and AIDS dementia. A term that evokes images of a person in the later stages of AIDS, bedridden and unable to speak. As it turns out, this is true for many cases of HIV and AIDS dementia. However, there are other forms as well. Some people may experience only mild symptoms, while others have more severe complications such as hallucinations or seizures due to brain damage caused by HIV infection
HIV and AIDS dementia is not always terminal but can lead to death if left untreated, so it is vital that you know the signs and symptoms in order to get help quickly.
What is HIV and AIDS dementia?
HIV and AIDS dementia is a neurological disorder that develops as an HIV and AIDS-related complication. It can affect memory, thinking, and behaviour in those living with this disease.
This disease is irreversible and may appear in the last stages of HIV/AIDS when the virus spreads to the brain.
What are the causes of HIV and AIDS dementia?
The virus infects the cells that support the neurons, causing inflammation, therefore, damaging the nerve cells. This disrupts communication between the cells, leading to thinking, memory, and movement problems.
Additionally, as the virus progresses and damages the immune system, it can increase your risk for other infections. However, opportunistic infections do not cause dementia.
How to spot HIV and AIDS dementia
The signs and symptoms of HIV and AIDS dementia can vary from person to person but may include:
- Memory loss
- Confusion or disorientation
- Low libido
- Difficulty speaking or writing
- Mood swings or personality changes
- Problems with balance or coordination
If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away for a diagnosis.
How is HIV and AIDS dementia diagnosed?
There is no definitive test for HIV and AIDS dementia, but your doctor will likely do a series of tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. These may include:
- Mental status tests- To evaluate your thinking skills and memory.
- MRI- To look for signs of damage to the brain.
- Blood tests - To check for HIV level and other infections.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) - To test the fluid around the brain and spine for evidence of infection.
- Neuropsychological testing - To assess your thinking and memory skills.
Once your doctor has determined that you have HIV and AIDS dementia, they will develop a treatment plan specific to your needs.
How is HIV and AIDS dementia treated?
Just like HIV and AIDS, this type of dementia doesn't have a cure, but it can be slowed down. The doctor will use the following factors to determine the efficient treatment:
- The amount of damage done by the illness
- The overall health of the person
- The presence of any other infections
- Your medical history
- Your opinion and that of your healthcare provider
Current treatment options for HIV-related dementia
Medications to slow the progression of HIV and AIDS dementia.
These include antiretroviral drugs which help to suppress the virus and medications to treat any other infections that may be present. In addition, it is one of the effective ways to help manage the disease.
Occupational or physical therapy can help manage HIV and AIDS dementia.
Your doctor may recommend changes in your lifestyle such as quitting smoking or drinking, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
HIV and AIDS Dementia vs Delirium
There are key differences between HIV and AIDS dementia and delirium that can help you to differentiate the two.
- HIV and AIDS dementia is a neurological disorder that develops as an HIV and AIDS-related complication. On the other hand, delirium is a state of mental confusion caused by several things, including drug toxicity, acute infections, sleep deprivation, or medical conditions.
- HIV and AIDS dementia may cause changes in memory and thinking. However, delirium often causes changes in attention, orientation, and awareness.
- HIV and AIDS dementia is irreversible, while delirium is reversible.