HIV rash refers to the occurrence of dark and pigmented rashes all over the body. It is caused due to infection by the HIV or human immunodeficiency virus. A patient may develop the rashes two to 3 weeks after contracting the virus for the first time. It persists for about two to four weeks.
HIV rash is mainly caused due to an underlying infection by the HIV virus. It can also develop as a side effect to the intake of medications that are used to treat and manage the symptoms of the infection. The rashes typically do not spread via direct contact and hence are non-contagious.
Some of the signs and symptoms of HIV rash are as follows:
- HIV rash typically occurs as clusters or reddish or brownish patches of pimples. They may also appear as eczema-like bumps.
- HIV rash is usually not accompanied by itchiness.
- Mucous membranes occurring in different parts of the body such as the genitals, oral cavity, and the eyes, etc. may also develop HIV rashes. They are seen as anomalous sores or blotches, blisters, and/or lesions.
- Lowered appetite leading to weight loss, fatigue, problems of vision, inexplicable instances of fever, loss of memory, diarrhea, inflammation of glands, muscles aches and cramping, and pain and stiffness of the joints are some other symptoms that may accompany HIV rashes.
- In some cases, HIV rash can cause the skin to peel away leading to open wounds. Such wounds are then vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections.
HIV rash can occur all over the body, including:
- HIV rashes are most prominent on the torso, i.e. the trunk. They may be seen as discolored or pigmented patches that are more prevalent in the front part of the trunk, especially the chest, as compared to the back.
- The neck and face may also show some spots or patches of HIV rash.
- The lower limb, feet, arms, and legs may also develop HIV rash. On occasions, the HIV rash on hands or feet may be seen as abnormal bumps.
- Progression of HIV infection towards full-blown AIDS, which is the final stage, can result in spread of HIV rash throughout the body. The sores, lesions, and blisters will be particularly widespread in the mouth and genital areas.
Causes and Types of HIV rash
HIV rash is caused due to infection by the HIV virus. The virus affects the immune system and impairs it thereby increasing the risk to the development of a host of other infections. The different types of HIV rashes are classified as per the underlying cause/infection as listed below:
- Symptomatic kind of HIV rash: It is seen during the last stages of HIV infection, i.e., AIDS. The disease is characterized by numerous chronic and incapacitating abnormalities. Such kind of HIV rash typically occurs on the chest, face, scalp, and armpits. They may be pink in color and exhibit dryness and scaling.
- Acute infection HIV rash: This type of HIV rash causes the least amount of damage as compared to others. They develop 3 to 4 weeks after the initial infection by HIV virus and vanish in about three weeks. It affects the trunk, limbs, and palms.
- Drug associated HIV rash: It is caused due to consumption of medications to treat the underlying HIV infection and other diseases and infections. It may cause peeling of the skin and occur as tiny lumps or hives.
- Allergies: HIV rash can also develop more easily as part of an allergic reaction towards intake of certain kinds of foods and medications.
- Other types of HIV rash: An underlying case of psoriasis can result in reddish and scaly HIV rash patches on the skin.
HIV rash caused due to infection by other pathogens: There are many types of HIV rash that develop due to additional infection by different kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They occur due to weakening of the immune system in the patient.
- HIV rashes caused due to infection by varied bacteria are:
- Eosinophilic follictus is marked by the development of reddish and itchy rashes around hair follicles, especially on the upper part of the body.
- Bacterial follictus is marked by formation of yellowish rashes in and around the hair follicles.
- HIV rashes caused due to infection by varied fungi are:
- HIV rash due to tinea fungal infection is marked by minor discomfort. It is contagious and temporary. Some forms of tinea infection include jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm infection, etc.
- HIV rashes caused due to infection by varied viruses are:
- Mollucsum contagiosum is marked by formation of distinctive rashes on the moist areas of the body. The viral infection is transmitted via sharing of infected clothes, linen, bed sheets, towels, and other personal stuff.
- Herpes rashes are caused due to an underlying infection by the herpes virus which gets activated due to HIV infection. Associated HIV rash are fluid-filled, reddish, and inflamed. After growing fully, they burst and discharge fluids. This type of HIV rash affects the genitals and the oral cavity.
- Infection by HPV can trigger the development of small, swollen, and reddened warts. This type of HIV rash is prevalent across the body, but often in the genital area.
- Infection by scabies mites can result in formation of rashes on the feet, waist, elbows, palms, and between the fingers and toes. They cause extreme itchiness, especially during nighttime.
There is no known cure for HIV infection. Healthy people should avoid unprotected sex and blood to blood contact as well as educate themselves about the varied ways in which the virus can be transmitted.
Treatment of HIV rash is focused on finding out the underlying cause and then alleviating and managing the adverse signs and symptoms, including irritation, itching, and discomfort.
- Itchiness can be eased with oral and topical medications.
- Patients need to avoid extreme heat and cold as well as direct exposure to sunlight or cold climates as it can aggravate and worsen the HIV rashes.
- Do not wear apparels that are too tight or which contain materials that can worsen the itching and irritation. Ensure that the fabrics are light and porous.
- Do not take hot showers or baths. Cool showers are recommended.
- Stop the intake of medications that cause allergic reactions. Consult a doctor for alternate medications. Also avoid foods that cause allergic reactions.