In the United States, about two out of every three new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in women are due to unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Sharing infected needles for drug use is another leading cause.
Early symptoms of HIV infection may be mild and easily unnoticed and dismissed. Unfortunately, even without noticeable symptoms, an infected person can still pass the virus on to others.
Read on to learn some common symptoms of HIV in women.
Early Symptoms Can Be Fleeting
In the early weeks after becoming infected with HIV, it is not uncommon for women to be asymptomatic. Some may have mild flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and lack of energy. Often, these symptoms go away within a few weeks.
In some cases, it may take as many as ten years for more severe symptoms to appear. During this time, the virus can still be transmitted from one person to another.
We all have lymph nodes throughout our bodies, including the neck, back of the head, armpits, and groin. As part of the immune system, our lymph nodes work to fend off infections. As the HIV infection begins to spread, the immune system kicks into high gear. The result is enlarged lymph nodes, commonly known as swollen glands. It is often one of the first signs of HIV. In people infected with HIV, swollen glands may last for several months.
HIV makes it harder for the immune system to fight off germs, so it’s easier for opportunistic infections to take hold. Some of these include pneumonia, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C. People with HIV are more prone to infections of the skin, eyes, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract, and brain. It may also be more difficult to treat common ailments like the flu.
Taking extra precautions, including frequent hand washing and taking HIV medications can help prevent some of these illnesses and their complications
2.Fever and Night Sweats
People infected with HIV may experience long periods of low-grade fever. According to Ohio State University Wexler Medical Center, a temperature between 99.8 and 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit is considered to be a low-grade fever. A fever means that something is wrong, but the cause isn’t always obvious. Because it’s a low-grade fever, those who are unaware of their HIV-positive status may ignore the symptom. Sometimes, fever is accompanied by nighttime sweats that can interfere with sleep.
A dry, persistent cough can be a long term symptom of HIV infection. This symptom is not typically cured with medications like antibiotics and cough suppressants.
Coughing may be an early symptom as the body reacts to the new virus. It is also a long term symptom caused by the damaged immune system. The cough may develop into pneumonia, which can be a serious symptom with dangerous effects.
4. Skin Rash
Skin rash is one of the most common symptoms of HIV. Called the “HIV rash”, this symptom can be seen in approximately 85% of cases. The rash may develop into blisters at the warm moist areas of the body, including genitals and facial regions.
Most rashes develop on the trunk of the body. The appearance of the rash is red bumps that may itch and peel.
5. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph nodes may be a starting sign of HIV infection. 67% of HIV sufferers may experience some sort of lymph node swelling. This commonly occurs in the neck, under arms, and groin region.
Lymph nodes are distributed all throughout the body so any abnormal swelling could be a symptom. Lymph nodes swell as the immune system is activated and the body fights off infection.
One of the first symptoms of the flu related symptoms of HIV is an unrelenting headache. The headaches may develop into chronic debilitating migraines.
Migraines become chronic after affecting a person for 15 or more days per month. 50% of people infected with HIV will experience headaches as a symptom, while 27% will experience chronic migraines.
This is compared to the general population, where only 2% of people suffer from chronic migraines.
7. Weight Loss
Weight loss in HIV infected individuals is common through the progression of the disease. When first infected, the flu like symptoms can cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This can cause a temporary loss in weight.
As the illness progresses, weight loss can be caused by a condition called “AIDS wasting”.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services categorize a person as having AIDS wasting when they have lost 10% or more of their body weight, and have experienced related weight loss symptoms for a period greater than 30 days.
8. Yeast Infection:
As HIV develops, the infected persons immune system becomes compromised. One of the starting symptoms of a failing immune system is bodily infections. Yeast infections are very common, and they affect more than just women.
The cause of this infection is a fungus called Candida. It can affect the body in different ways, such as vaginal yeast infections, thrush, intestinal infections, and more.
Getting rid of these infections may prove futile until HIV medication is in place.
Fatigue associated with HIV may be the most under-reported symptom. Many people suffer from chronic fatigue but do not realize it is a medical condition.
Chronic fatigue is tiredness that cannot be alleviated with rest. Fatigue is first reported in the flu like symptoms that accompany the early stages of HIV. Once this phase is complete, fatigue may not appear until AIDS develops.
10. Cold Sores
Cold sores can be a symptom of HIV. Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. It can occur as genital, rectal, or oral herpes.
Anyone can be infected with herpes, regardless of their HIV status. Those who are infected with HIV and have cold sores may suffer from recurrent outbreaks of the herpes virus.
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