The CDC reports that there were approximately 36,000 newly diagnosed cases of AIDS infection in the United States in 2008. Symptoms of HIV/AIDS may not appear for many years after exposure. There are five symptoms of AIDS that are vague and indistinct and often assumed to be caused by other illnesses. The only way to know if you have contracted HIV/AIDS is to be tested.
A very vague symptom of AIDS infection reported by the CDC is malaise or profound fatigue. The fatigue experienced is pervasive; getting up to perform activities of daily living is often too much. Your professional and personal life may suffer from your inability to carry out necessary activities because of the debilitating fatigue. You, your friends and family, or your doctor might at first suspect depression as the cause of fatigue, especially if a basic physical exam and lab work do not reveal any other illness or disease process as the cause.
Frequent Recurrent Infections
According to Donna D. Ignatavicius, MS RN, and M. Linda Workman, Ph.D, authors of “Medical-Surgical Nursing: Critical Thinking for Collaborative Care,” frequent infections such as pneumonia are a symptom of HIV/AIDS. Pneumonia has many causes, but certain types of pneumonia are rare and found primarily in patients with a weakened immune system. For example, pneumocystis carinii is caused by a protozoan infection that is not common in the general population. A pneumonia caused by fungi, such as histoplasma capsulatum, would be another suspicious type of pneumonia to contract.
A person with HIV/AIDS may experience frequent nonspecific viral infections. Malaise, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph glands and fever may occur, all general symptoms that do not raise alarm. Accompanying these vague infections and illnesses are recurrent night sweats that leave you drenched. Swollen lymph glands occur with many illnesses but may also become a chronic problem. Lymph glands in the groin, neck and armpits may remain enlarged.
Recurrent yeast infections, candidiasis, should also raise alarm. If you are not diabetic and do not have a diagnosed immune disorder, you should not experience chronic candidiasis of the throat, esophagus airways or lungs.
Diarrhea that persists for more than one month needs to be evaluated. Persistent pneumonia will lead to weight loss and malnutrition if not corrected. A person infected with HIV/AIDS may exhibit HIV wasting syndrome, which is characterized by an emaciated look, classically referred to as “slim disease.”
Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary explains Kaposi’s sarcoma as a skin disorder that typically is not found in people less than 60 years of age and is associated with people in an immunocompromised state. Characterized by red, pink, brown or purplish blotches on the skin or the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyelids, these lesions initially develop on the skin but can affect other organs later in the disease process.
Altered Neurologic Function
Changes in mental status and behavior are late signs of HIV/AIDS infection. Confusion, depression and other neurologic disorders can result from malnutrition, lymphoma of the brain or other infections that affect the brain.
About this Author
Patricia Nevins is a registered nurse with nearly 20 years of nursing experience. She obtained her Master of Science in nursing with a focus in education from the University of Phoenix. Nevins shares her passion for healthy living through her roles as educator, nursing consultant and writer.