Table of Contents
A matter of mere decades ago, there were very few effective treatments for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, more commonly known as AIDS. While there is no cure for the condition as of yet, several drugs have been developed that allow patients with the condition to go on to live long, happy lives.
AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. The earlier the virus is detected, the sooner effective treatment can be administered, increasing a patient’s chances of living a normal life and reducing their chances of developing AIDS.
That being said, if you or a loved one suffer from AIDS, it is worth learning what to expect once it has developed to its later stages. While this is not a pleasant eventuality to contemplate, it can allow you to better prepare for the future. To that end, this article will explain some of the most commonly occurring late-stage HIV symptoms.
What is HIV and how does it lead to AIDS?
While HIV and AIDS are often spoken about within a shared context, they are not the same thing. Rather, HIV is a condition that can lead to someone developing AIDS. HIV doesn’t turn into AIDS in all cases, but all AIDS patients suffer from the condition as a direct result of HIV.
What is HIV and how does it spread?
Human immunodeficiency virus is a condition that weakens the human immune system by damaging white blood cells. These cells fight off infection in the body. When they are damaged, you are left more susceptible to diseases and everyday illnesses.
The condition can be passed through sexual contact, sharing syringes, or through pregnancy and breastfeeding. Two to six weeks after contracting the infection, most people experience flu-like symptoms for one or two weeks. Since it can be so easily mistaken for the flu and since other symptoms may not develop for years, many people do not realize they’ve caught HIV until it is quite advanced.
As more and more of your white blood cells are damaged by the virus, you may find yourself dealing with chronic symptoms of infection. These include, but are not limited to:
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- A high temperature.
- Unexplained weight loss.
What is AIDS?
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the final stage of untreated HIV, during which the body’s white cell count is at a critical low. This leaves the patient unable to fight off opportunistic infections that are less likely to occur in those with robust immune systems.
Some of these conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Tuberculosis (TB).
- Lymphoma and cervical cancer.
- Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.
As well as the symptoms associated with these conditions, an AIDS patient in the last stage of the disease will experience further symptoms.
Symptoms shown in the late stages of AIDS
Developing a secondary illness such as pneumonia or cancer can be a warning sign of AIDS. Doctors will also examine your white blood cells, looking for a low CD4 T lymphocyte count. It is this cell that is primarily responsible for fighting off infection.
As the patient reaches the final stages of AIDS, other signs will develop that are difficult to miss.
Sudden weight loss
With terminal stage AIDS, abrupt and otherwise unexplained weight loss is a common symptom. While the exact cause of this is uncertain, it is thought that it has something to do with the difficulty an AIDS patient may experience in absorbing nutrients from their food.
Chronic diarrhea is a symptom experienced by almost 100% of AIDS patients. This exacerbates problems with weight loss.
Fever is caused by your immune system trying to remove infections from your body. Because people with AIDS have a compromised immune system, the body works hard but ineffectively to fight infection, resulting in recurring fever.
Tiredness and weakness
Due to their weakened immune system and difficulty absorbing nutrients from food, many people with HIV/AIDS deal with chronic fatigue and weakness. They will be far more easily tired than they used to be, becoming exhausted after performing daily tasks or walking.
Changes in memory and mood
People with late-stage HIV may experience mood disorders, becoming depressed and losing interest in old hobbies. Some patients may struggle with memory and may even develop dementia. This can be distressing and confusing not only for the patient but also for their loved ones.
How to support patients with late Symptoms of HIV
Late-stage AIDS can be a very upsetting and difficult condition to live with—but there is help out there. Hospice care can provide emotional support and professional medical assistance, allowing patients to live out their final days in comfort and giving carers much-needed help.
If you or a loved one are currently dealing with AIDS, know you do not have to do so alone. At the All American Hospice, we provide professional and compassionate care, allowing patients and their loved ones to enjoy the time they have left together.
If you would like to find out more about hospice care for late-stage AIDS patients, you can find more information on hospice eligibility and services on the All American Hospice website.