World AIDS Day and AIDS Dementia

Today is World AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Day. AIDS dementia complex (ADC) is a neurological disorder that affects your motor functions, memory and ability to think clearly or quickly. This condition gets its name from its most severe symptoms, which include psychosis or mania. Despite a protective system in our bodies called the blood-brain barrier, which generally keeps diseases away from the brain, HIV is able to get through where it kills nerve cells. Dementia is the end result. So anyone who contracts the HIV virus is susceptible to this condition. Often, the symptoms don’t surface until the immune system is very weak, though sometimes it develops in people with HIV who are relatively healthy. 

Studies show that about 15 to 30% of people with HIV infection show mild neuropsychological problems. That is mild physical and psychological problems of the human nervous system (brain, spinal cord). These symptoms of HIV dementia can be so mild that people suffering from HIV infection resulting in dementia may not be aware of them. As the symptoms of HIV dementia increase and become evident it may mean that the HIV infection has progressed to AIDS. Dementia only exists when neurocognitive impairment in the patient is severe enough to interfere markedly with day-to-day function. That is, the patient is typically unable to work and may not be able to take care of him or herself. Before this, the patient is said to have a mild neurocognitive disorder.

 

AIDS Dementia is not the same as Alzheimer’s disease, though many of the symptoms are identical. Symptoms of AIDS dementia complex include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of short- or long-term memory
  • Social withdrawal
  • Slowed thinking
  • Short attention span
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Egocentric attitude-lack of caring or concern for oneself or others
  • Weakness
  • Poor coordination
  • Impaired judgment
  • Problems with vision
  • Personality change 

Aggressive treatment is required for AIDS dementia complex as it is associated with higher death rates. Treatment with antiretroviral drugs. Ritalin (methylphenidate) a psycho stimulant can be helpful for lethargy and slowed thinking. Antiretroviral drugs can cause temporary problems with cognition (mental activity such as thinking, attention, reasoning, decision making and dealing with concepts) and some people on this type of medication can become confused.

 

David

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