What is HIV-Induced Neuropathy?

In the United States, approximately 1.2 million individuals were living with HIV at the close of 2021, with about 87% aware of their status. One significant complication of HIV is HIV-induced neuropathy, a condition characterized by nerve damage that often manifests as burning sensations and numbness in the limbs.

This article examines HIV-induced neuropathy, shedding light on its symptoms, causes and available treatments.

Have you been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy? We can help.

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Causes of HIV-induced neuropathy

Neuropathy in individuals with HIV can result from various factors. The virus triggers inflammation that harms nerves, contributing to the condition. Certain drugs, referred to as “d-drugs” or NRTIs (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors), prescribed for treating HIV, may also play a role in causing neuropathy. Furthermore, underlying health issues commonly found in HIV patients, like herpes and tuberculosis, can contribute to the development of neuropathy. For a comprehensive understanding of neuropathy’s origins in individuals living with HIV, it’s important to recognize the diverse factors that can contribute to this condition.

Symptoms of HIV-induced neuropathy

Neuropathy associated with HIV often presents recognizable symptoms such as numbness, burning sensations and tingling, indicating damage to the nerve endings. It’s worth noting that the manifestation of these symptoms can vary from person to person. In some cases, it may lead to muscle weakness, a loss of balance and changes in how individuals perceive pain.

Diagnosis of HIV-induced neuropathy

  • Biopsy. Skin biopsies entail taking a small sample of skin to analyze the nerve fiber endings. This examination aids doctors in determining if there is damage to the nerves, which may be the underlying cause of sensory loss.
  • Blood test. Blood tests are instrumental in eliminating the possibility of other potential conditions that could be contributing to neuropathy. These may encompass elevated blood sugar, thyroid issues or various deficiencies.
  • Nerve conduction study. Tiny patches on the skin deliver a brief electrical pulse to various nerves, and a machine gauges the efficiency and speed with which the nerves transmit the signal.

Treatments of HIV-induced neuropathy

Your physician may suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, anti-seizure medications, antidepressants and analgesics (such as opiates and topical creams). Adopting a healthy diet, quitting smoking and maintaining an active lifestyle can contribute to effectively managing your neuropathy symptoms.

Conclusion

In the era of medical progress, living with HIV has become a manageable, lifelong journey. However, as individuals with the virus lead longer, more typical lives, there’s a growing awareness among doctors that HIV may heighten the risk of neuropathy. It’s crucial to recognize that the impact of HIV-related neuropathy varies among individuals. Consult with your healthcare provider to explore personalized strategies for managing your condition. Always keep in mind that you’re not alone—support is readily available for those navigating the complexities of HIV and its potential implications on health.

WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions who are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our companyour drug and subscribe to our newsletter.

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FAQs

What causes HIV-induced peripheral neuropathy?

Neuropathy in individuals with HIV can result from various factors. The virus triggers inflammation that harms nerves, contributing to the condition. Certain drugs, referred to as "d-drugs" or NRTIs (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors), prescribed for treating HIV, may also play a role in causing neuropathy. Furthermore, underlying health issues commonly found in HIV patients, like herpes and tuberculosis, can contribute to the development of neuropathy.

What are the symptoms of HIV-induced peripheral neuropathy?

Neuropathy associated with HIV often presents recognizable symptoms such as numbness, burning sensations and tingling, indicating damage to the nerve endings. It's worth noting that the manifestation of these symptoms can vary from person to person. In some cases, it may lead to muscle weakness, a loss of balance and changes in how individuals perceive pain. 

How is HIV-induced peripheral neuropathy treated?

Biopsy. Skin biopsies entail taking a small sample of skin to analyze the nerve fiber endings. This examination aids doctors in determining if there is damage to the nerves, which may be the underlying cause of sensory loss. 
Blood test. Blood tests are instrumental in eliminating the possibility of other potential conditions that could be contributing to neuropathy. These may encompass elevated blood sugar, thyroid issues, or various deficiencies. 
Nerve conduction study. Tiny patches on the skin deliver a brief electrical pulse to various nerves, and a machine gauges the efficiency and speed with which the nerves transmit the signal. 

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Have you been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy? We can help.