Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, is a disease that develops in the advanced stages of infection by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Infection by HIV weakens the immune system of the person by destroying the CD4 cells, the primary infection fighters of the body. A person is said to have AIDS when his or her blood has a T-Cell CD4 count less than 200. The diagnosis of the syndrome is usually done by a blood test that reveals the CD4 count.
As the T-cell count reduces considerably due to infection, the immune system weakens, reducing the person’s ability to fight infections. They are susceptible to a number of infections and diseases, which are commonly known as the AIDS-defining illnesses.
The symptoms of AIDS appear only at the advanced stages of HIV infection. There are cases in which a person lives with HIV infection without developing AIDS. When left untreated, HIV infection progresses and develops into AIDS eventually. Most of the AIDS-defining illnesses are bacterial, viral, or other parasitic infections. They are susceptible to opportunistic infections.
The most common symptoms of AIDS include:
- Dry cough
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pain while swallowing
- Vision problems, including blurring and loss of sight
- Chronic diarrhea
- Extreme fatigue
- Considerable weight loss
- Abdominal cramps
- Memory loss and confusion
- Persistent headache
- Stiff neck
They are also susceptible to a number of cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma, lymphomas, and cervical cancers. In addition, people at the late stages of HIV infection develops life-threatening conditions including:
- Esophagitis – a condition in which the lining of the esophagus shows inflammation
- Infections in nervous system – this includes meningitis, encephalitis and peripheral neuropathy
- Toxoplamosis – a parasitic infection of the brain
The complete cure for HIV and AIDS has not been found yet. A number of treatments are now available that help to alleviate the symptoms. This will help in improving the quality of life of the patient. Retroviral therapy that reduces the viral load in blood is found to be very useful in improving the duration of life in AIDS patients.