AIDS, derived from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is an immunodeficiency disease caused by the HIV virus. The AIDS disease is thus preceded by the HIV infection. Unfortunately, until the current state of medical research, there is no cure or therapeutic approach that can successfully treat this disease. The most common cause of HIV infection and subsequently AIDS is unprotected sexual intercourse with people already infected with HIV.

What is AIDS?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus. An untreated HIV infection leads to AIDS after a mostly multi-year, symptom-free phase. Click to enlarge.

The disease AIDS (short for: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which means in German: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is now known to every human being, because it is incurable to the present day and can shorten the life considerably. She likes to be confused with the HIV infection, in which only the HI virus has infected the human body and over a course of several years will ensure that the immune system is completely destroyed.

By contrast, AIDS refers to the condition in which the immune system is so badly damaged that so-called opportunistic infections spread and ultimately kill humans.

causes

AIDS is the terminal consequence of the HI virus infection. As soon as the viruses find their way into the human body, they first trigger only mild, flu-like symptoms, which soon disappear. However, the viruses do not do this: They remain in the body and can not be recognized and destroyed by the immune cells of humans, as it would be the case with other pathogens.

Viruses inject their RNA (ribonucleic acid) into healthy human cells and reprogram them in such a way that they can only produce new viruses. Then the body cells die off and the viruses look for new host cells. Through this mechanism, healthy immune cells are destroyed until finally there are no more.

One speaks of AIDS when the state of the immune system is obviously disturbed or ill. AIDS manifests itself through so-called opportunistic infections or opportunistic tumors, which can spread because the immune system has nothing to oppose them.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

AIDS is the hallmark of HIV infection characterized by severe opportunistic infections, brain dysfunction and wasting syndrome. Wasting syndrome causes prolonged diarrhea, fever, fatigue, and heavy weight loss that exceeds ten percent of body weight. The dysfunctions of the brain are expressed by a variety of neuropsychiatric symptoms such as dysregulations, movement disorders and autonomic disorders.

Degenerative processes can lead to an increase in dementia. Particularly typical of AIDS, however, are the severe opportunistic infections caused by microorganisms, which cause no problems in healthy persons. These infections include severe pneumonia caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii, bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis or repeated Salmonella infections.

Frequently, it also comes to herpes infections in the stomach, esophagus or lung. In addition, infections occur that are absent in healthy individuals. These include infections with the cytomegalovirus, which particularly attacks the retina of the eye, fungal infections transmitted by birds, intestinal infections with unicellular organisms and other atypical infections.

Also typical for AIDS is the occurrence of malignant tumors such as Kaposisarkom, various non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, malignant tumors of the CNS or even an aggressive cervix cancer. The Kaposisarkom is characterized by multiple brown-red hardened plaques on the skin. These nodes form ulcers and, if untreated, can affect the entire skin, mucous membranes and various organs. Every single illness that occurs in the context of AIDS can lead to death.

course

The disease course in AIDS takes very little time. After all, AIDS is only talked about as soon as the immune system is no longer able to fend off other pathogens. The course of the disease is divided in such a way that the person one day suffers from an infection that can be banal - however, he will die within a few weeks of this, because the HI infection has almost completely weakened his immune system. Also possible are tumors that can quickly lead to death.

However, before it comes to AIDS, the HI infection is followed by a latency phase lasting years, during which the immune system is only broken down. While the person affected may not yet die of trivial infections, they may last longer and become more arduous. Only when it becomes obvious that the person affected can no longer defend himself against a disease can AIDS be the topic.

Very rarely, it can happen that AIDS never breaks out and that the infected person remains in latency for life or fights the HI virus.

complications

AIDS is always associated with serious complications as the final stage of HIV infection. First, there is an increased risk of various infections and inflammations, including, for example, bronchitis, cytomegalovirus, salmonella septicemia, and candida fungal infection. Often there is also pneumonia or inflammation of the esophagus and various types of pneumonia.

The risk of cancer also increases significantly, which can cause, among other cervical cancer and malignant lymphoma. Specific sequelae of AIDS include Kaposi's sarcoma (a malignant tumor), wasting syndrome (rapid weight loss with chronic diarrhea), and mycobacterial infections that occur either in the lungs or throughout the body.

In general, AIDS is at an increased risk of developing tumors and infections. With the occurrence of these sequelae is usually accompanied by a rapid physical and mental decline. Diseases such as HIV encephalopathy cause irreversible damage to the brain, leading to further complications.

Ultimately, as a result of AIDS, multiple organ failure and unconsciousness occur, along with the death of the patient. However, extensive treatment can at least reduce AIDS complications today.

When should you go to the doctor?

After a period of incubation (which may take a long time), HIV infection leads to AIDS. The trick is that the first symptoms after infection are similar to a flu or a flu infection and initially can not be easily distinguished. Signs are diffuse symptoms such as fever, tiredness, headache, loss of appetite, rash, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea or weight loss. For this reason, infection with the HI virus is often not immediately recognized as such.

Another problem is that the symptoms that follow after the infection are followed by a longer latency period, which can take years. Patients are virtually free of complaints during this time. However, if infection with HIV is not treated, it will inevitably lead to the onset of the disease at a later date. A severely weakened immune system is the most important feature. It makes those affected vulnerable to infections and cancer.

So, for no apparent reason, if you have flu-like symptoms that persist over a long period of time and you do not use traditional treatments, it's time to see a general practitioner. He can do a blood test and then refer them to specialist doctors. This is especially true when one belongs to the so-called risk groups (drug addicts, people with frequently changing sexual partners, etc.)

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Treatment & Therapy

Currently AIDS can not be cured, only palliative treatment is possible. Once the sufferer has an opportunistic infection, it is possible to at least alleviate the discomfort. In case of a cold or similar infection by AIDS the symptoms can be combated. A treatment with antibiotics or other means would not be useful.

However, the main focus of the treatment of AIDS is currently delaying the onset of AIDS after HIV infection. There are already modern approaches that this delay is possible for several years or even decades. However, medical research is working hard to defeat AIDS.

If, on the other hand, it is an opportunistic tumor caused by AIDS, painkillers are often administered and the person affected suffers less. It is also important to monitor the AIDS patient during this time to be adequately symptomatic and to be able to spare him pain.

Outlook & Forecast

HIV infection is still not completely curable. However, a complete immunodeficiency can be avoided by a comprehensive therapy. Decisive for a positive prognosis is a consistent and lasting treatment of the virus infection.

However, once the AIDS disease has broken out, it is deadly. Nevertheless, modern medicines can significantly improve the life expectancy and quality of life of those affected. In the long term, however, follow-on diseases such as infections and liver or cancer diseases develop, which weaken the immune system and the entire organism on and on.

Patients with other illnesses as well as elderly or drug-addicted people have a particularly low life expectancy. Even in countries with poor health care, the chances of a long life with AIDS are much worse.

aftercare

There are no follow-up measures that can be taken in the case of AIDS. Rather, the follow-up measures must be guided by the different ailments that give rise to the diagnosis of "AIDS". This can be explained by the fact that AIDS is not curable. However, the condition of the patients can be improved in some cases by a consistent drug therapy even more. Follow-up examinations exist everywhere in monitoring CD4 scores and viral load.

HIV-associated anal carcinoma requires approximately yearly follow-up examinations, which consist of control of the rectum and parts of the colon. For all HIV-associated infections and parasitic infestations, the corresponding aftercare options must also be exhausted. In many cases, this means regular medical care for the AIDS patient, as well as checking the blood levels in order to detect and monitor subsequent infections.

Overall, the follow-up measures taken in AIDS patients in the case of occurring and treated diseases are the same as in HIV-negative patients. Only the use of immunosuppressants (where appropriate) should be reconsidered urgently.

To prevent further opportunistic infections, those affected by AIDS should live a very healthy lifestyle that enhances the immune system in the best possible way. This includes a healthy diet, exercise and the elimination of substances that negatively impact the immune system - such as alcohol and nicotine.

You can do that yourself

Since AIDS is a acquired immunodeficiency, all steps that strengthen the immune system are indicated. Due to the severity of the disease, measures for self-help are only possible to a limited extent.

In addition to the regular intake of the medication, a vitamin-rich mixed diet, a lot of sports and exercise in the fresh air are also beneficial. It is especially important to pay attention to a sufficient amount of vitamin C. Other immune boosting measures such as changing showers and a well-regulated daily routine are also helpful. In part, this can be used to reduce the side effects of the medication. Anyone who maintains a positive attitude to life despite the illness also does good to his immune system. Helpful, supportive social contacts instead of exclusion are beneficial for body, soul and spirit.

Due to their immunodeficiency affected persons should avoid infections by others. Vaccinations can help (for example, when traveling to other countries), but sometimes AIDS patients are advised against vaccinations. Alternative healing methods can be tested as supportive measures. However, acupuncture, homeopathy and the like are scientifically not yet established.

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