What is HIV Rash?
A HIV rash is a rash that manifests as one of the symptoms of HIV infections and is seen in about 85% of individuals infected with the virus. It arises due to acute infection, a bad reaction of medication for HIV infection, or as a result of a weakened immune system due to chronic infection. 4
What is HIV Infection?
HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus that alters with the immune system making people more vulnerable to diseases and infections. The disease is characterised by itchy rashes on various parts of the body. HIV is found in all the tissues in the human body and is transmitted through body fluids of an infected person.
It is caused by a virus that infects all vital organs and human cells. HIV then develops to AIDS in time making one even more vulnerable.
Most people when infected with HIV have various symptoms that include rashes on the body. It is a very common symptom that can occur in the early or later stages of the HIV infection. To some people, it can be one of the first signs of HIV infection together with other symptoms such as fever, diarrhoea and headaches.
HIV-related rashes should be identified and evaluated by a clinical doctor to avoid misconceptions. This is because rashes can be caused by other things such as allergies, infections or other diseases.
Some rashes maybe very serious and if that is the case, one should seek medical treatment immediately. The location of the rash may vary depending on the cause of the rash:
Acute HIV rash
This commonly occurs on the face, shoulder, upper body, chest, and at times, it may be seen on the hands and feet. Nonetheless, it can also occur in other parts- almost anywhere in the body.
Herpes simplex rash
If the rash is associated with herpes simplex 1, it is mainly found around the lips and mouth and when it is associated with herpes simplex 2, it mainly occurs in the genitals.
Mulluscum contagiosum rash
This rash may be seen in limbs as well as upper body among children. It may also occur in abdomen, genitals, and the thigh something that suggests it is a transmitted sexually.
Drug induced rash
Use of anti retroviral drugs may cause a rash to develop and this kind of rash is found mainly in the upper body as well as on limbs close to the trunk. Drug induced rashes are not present in face.
Herpes zoster rash
With this rash, it is mainly seen in part of the skin that is supplied by the nerve. The rash may occur simultaneously in both limbs and tend to move towards the trunk. The rash is more extensively distributed in people with HIV.
Rashes caused by HIV infection can appear anywhere on the body. The rashes appear slightly raised above the skin. They usually appear on the trunk or the face and sometimes on the hands and the feet. These rashes appear red on people with light skin and slightly purple on people with dark skin complexions.
The HIV rashes appears when the immune system is trying to fight off the HIV virus. Other symptoms of HIV infection in the early stages include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
These symptoms last for a period of two weeks when HIV infects the immune system in the body. The rashes may not be very severe but they are one of the symptoms of a very dangerous disease.
The symptoms look and feel like other common ailments or diseases and they also disappear very quickly hence many people don’t realize they have been infected with HIV till more aggressive signs starts to show. It is advisable that you take a blood test for HIV if you get a rash and you think you may have been exposed to HIV or any other infection.
When the first symptoms go away, other symptoms may not arise till much later therefore the sooner you get diagnosed the sooner you can begin your treatment that will help you stay healthy and live longer. It is advised that one should stay alert and understand any HIV infection symptoms.
Medication taken only helps to control the virus but an HIV infection develops into AIDS and it cannot be treated.
The duration a HIV rash lasts will depend on many factors. The cause of the rash, mode of treatment, and complications being brought about by the virus infection may play part.
Acute HIV rash
While this rash occurs within 6 weeks following an infection with HIV, it lasts for a couple of weeks before resolving spontaneously.
Herpes simplex rash
This rash occurs repeatedly and a patient will need to use antibiotics for about 14 days to reduce its recurrence rate. The rash may recur again and will require an effective treatment whenever it reoccurs.
Herpes zoster rash
While this rash may resolve in about 2 to 3 weeks, in people with HIV, it may take longer to be treated and there are chances of recurring.
Molluscum contagiosum rash
A molluscum contagiosum lesion may last for about 2 months and in HIV patients who have compromised immunity, it may last longer.
Drug induced rash
Rashes being triggered by anti-retroviral medications may be mild or even severe and life threatening. Mild forms of the rash manifest within 2 weeks of medication use and will go away within weeks without having any treatment.
In some rare situations, medications such as Nevirapine may cause a very serious skin lesion such as toxic epidermal necrolysis or Steven Johnson Syndrome and could cause death. The lesions may affect close to 30% of the skin’s surface area.
When one is infected with HIV, the virus weakens the body’s immune system and in time it takes over the whole body and therefore it cannot fight other infections that cause rashes. These infections include:
This is a viral skin infection that causes small, flesh-coloured bumps on the skin. These rashes can appear anywhere on the body except for the hands and the soles of your feet. One could get more than a hundred bumps or more all over the body.els or linens, touching of the same objects and sharing of equipment with an infected person.
After some time, the bumps go away on their own even without any medication. These rashes are larger and harder to treat for people who have HIV and AIDS.
Treatments for the HIV infection helps in boosting the immune system and its functionality hence one stays healthy and in good shape for a long time.
This virus is very common in people with HIV and AIDS and it is very hard for people with weak immune systems to stop flare-ups. Shingles also known as herpes zoster causes very painful skin rashes that look like striped water blisters. These rashes can cover a whole part of the body, the torso, the arms, legs or the face.
One should get medical attention immediately after discovering the rashes for quick recovery. Pain relievers and anti-viral medicine makes one feel better and clears up the rashes very quickly. If these infection gets near the eye, they can cause permanent damage to the eyes. Herpes rashes around the mouth can be treated with anti-viral medication.
This is a type of skin cancer. Kaposi sacoma appears as dark spots that maybe brown, purple or red. They usually appear when someone has AIDS. Anti-viral medication is used to lower the chances of developing AIDS for someone with HIV. Therefore this form of cancer rarely happens.
Drugs that are used to treat HIV and other related infections can trigger formation of rashes. The rashes could take days or weeks to disappear. Some rashes maybe itchy, sore and very painful.
If you get a rash along with fever, fatigue and difficult breathing, they are signs of serious health problems that include hypersensitivity reaction to any medication.
- Pain and itching on the skin.
- Swelling of the tongue and the face.
- Formation of blisters on the skin and around the mouth, nose and the eyes.
HIV medication that are linked to hypersensitivity reactions include the following;
- Abacavir and medications that have abacavir in them such as Triumeq and Trizivir.
A person with AIDS should not stop taking HIV medication without talking to the doctor first to avoid complications.
Is HIV Rash Itchy or Not?
When the rash is as a result of acute HIV infection, it does not itch and resembles eczema. However, other rashes occurring due to opportunistic infections or drugs may be associated with itching and these mainly occur in later stages of the virus infection.
At times, a rash that initially did not itch may start itching if a patient takes a faulty medication. A patient should ensure that they seek help of a doctor when a rash appears so that the cause of the rash is identified and treated in time.
Treatment of HIV rash may take different forms and includes self care and use of medication. In self care, a patient needs to ensure the following when they develop a rash:
- Wear light, loose fitting clothes
- Refrain from taking hot showers or exposing yourself to warm sun
- Refrain from using new chemical based products that you might not have used before such as lotions and soaps
- If the rash persists and is associated with some other symptoms, seek medical help.
HIV rash may be treated using medications such as:
- Antiviral medication used to treat rash that is associated with herpes zoster and herpes simplex
- Discontinue a drug that is causing a rash or ask your doctor to give you an alternative drug
- A rash that is associated with molluscum contagiosum may be treated using laser treatment or liquid nitrogen
Good Health Tips
- You should see a doctor if you are not sure what is causing your rash.
- Get advice from your doctor about over-the-counter medicine that can help with itching such as antihistamine and hydrocortisone. Hot showers and baths are not recommended if you have a skin rash.
- Direct sunlight causes more itching therefore if you have rashes you should stay away from direct sunlight as much as possible.
- HIV and AIDS: Causes, symptoms, and treatments: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/17131.php
- HIV Symptoms in Men: http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/symptoms-men?m=0
- About HIV/AIDS: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html
- The HIV Rash. https://www.dred.com/uk/hiv-rash.html