HIV and its oral manifestations
To commemorate the world AIDS day celebrated on December 1st, this month’s column will be on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and its oral manifestations.
AIDS – ‘Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome’ is a disease that compromises one’s immune system. It is a viral disease. The causative agent is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The disease alters the person’s immune system and makes the person much more susceptible to diseases and infections than a normal healthy person.
It is a sexually transmitted infection (STD). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and, from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding (vertical transmission). HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.
This virus, after entering the body, continues to multiply and destroy the immune cells. Once the immune cells are destroyed, the body cannot fight off infections and diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system. If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged that it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the rate at which HIV progresses varies depending on age, general health and background.
There's no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. But medications can dramatically slow the progression of the disease. With the right treatment and support, people living with HIV can enjoy long and healthy lives. The medications have reduced AIDS deaths in many developed nations.
Like most infectious diseases, AIDS or HIV infected persons also exhibit certain oral signs and symptoms. There are certain tell-tale sings which are not very hard to miss to a seasoned dental practitioner.
In the early years of the HIV infection, dentists were often the first health professionals to notice signs of a weak immune system. These signs are oral infections that are normally controlled by a healthy person.
A few common oral health problems encountered with HIV infected people are:
• Constant dry mouth
• Persistent oral fungal infections (oral thrush)
• Severely painful ulcers that does not go away
• Herpes simplex infections in the mouth (red sores all over the mouth)
• Persistent gum diseases (swollen and bleeding gums)
• Enlarged saliva glands
• painless, fuzzy white patches on the side of the tongue
• Oral warts (human papillomavirus – HPV)
Knowing about the disease is the first step in avoiding it.
Wishing every one good health. Be safe! Until next time, take care, be healthy and God bless you!