Lesions are abnormal growths on the skin. Skin lesions are common in people who have HIV.
According to the American Society of Dermatological Surgery, a skin lesion may appear as a bump, a discolored area, or an ulcer on the skin.
People with HIV may be prone to skin lesions for a number of different reasons.
HIV can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight infection.
A person who has a weakened immune system is more likely to develop a variety of skin infections, which may be fungal, viral, or bacterial. They may also develop certain skin cancers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2013, about 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the United States.
HIV does not directly affect the skin. However, as HIV affects the body’s ability to fight infection, people with HIV have an increased chance of developing certain health problems, including skin conditions.
Skin infections in people with HIV are often called opportunistic infections. Certain viruses and bacteria that may not cause illness in a person with a healthy immune system may be able to infect a person with a weakened immune system.
Skin lesions and rashes may also develop as a side effect of HIV medication.
The severity of skin lesions can vary. In some cases, only a small area of the skin is affected. In other instances, dozens or more skin lesions can develop.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells that help fight infection. CD4 is a blood test that measures the number of lymphocytes in your body.
The lower a person’s CD4 count is, the more likely it is that they will develop certain skin lesions. The higher the levels of CD4 a person with HIV has the better they can fight infections, including those that affect the skin.
It’s also important to understand that people who do not have HIV can also develop a variety of skin lesions. Having certain skin lesions does not necessarily mean that a person has HIV.
Several different skin lesions commonly develop in people who have HIV. These conditions include:
After taking a medical history and examining the lesion, a dermatologist can often make a diagnosis.
In some instances, a skin biopsy may be performed. A skin biopsy involves scraping the skin lesion and examining the cells under a microscope. The biopsy does not treat the skin lesion, but it can identify the cause so that appropriate treatment can be recommended.
A person who has HIV and develops a skin lesion should consider seeing their doctor.
Some lesions may not go away without treatment. Also, lesions can increase in severity making them harder to treat.
Although it may vary, treatment for skin lesions is often the same whether a person has HIV or not.
The length of time it takes for skin lesions to heal may vary according to the cause. Skin infections that develop in people with HIV may take longer to heal or require longer treatment, but this depends on how weakened their immune system is.
It may not be possible to prevent all skin lesions that can develop in people who have HIV, but there are things that can decrease the chances of developing them. Many of the infections that cause skin lesions are opportunistic, so keeping the immune system as strong as possible can help.
Taking antiviral medication may increase a person’s CD4 cells, which helps protect them from infection. Eating well, getting enough rest, and exercising regularly can also play a role in keeping the immune system healthy.