How Does HIV Affects The Skin?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus that enters into the blood and if an individual acquires this virus, it remains in the body throughout life. HIV attacks and damages the immune system of the body. The immune system acts as a protector and protects the body from any illness by fighting germs, infections and bacterias. HIV causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) which is a devastating disease and destroys certain white blood cells that are essential for the immune system of the body. HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. Anal and vaginal intercourse can transmit the virus from an HIV infected man to a woman or from HIV infected woman to a man. When an immune system is damaged by HIV, an infected person may develop one or more serious infections and diseases. Patients living with HIV and AIDS are susceptible to various infective and inflammatory skin diseases and these diseases can affect the patient at any stage of HIV disease.

Effects Of HIV On Skin

1. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis is a chronic papulosquamous skin disease that is typically located on the areas that have a rich supply of sebaceous glands, such as the scalp, face, and upper trunk. It is characterized by the greasy yellowish scale on the background of redness, yellow flakes on the eyelids or eyelashes, and scales on the head or in the hair. The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known yet but it is believed that it is caused due to an overgrowth of yeast. Numerous studies have demonstrated the relationship between seborrheic dermatitis and human immunodeficiency virus and they suggested that seborrheic dermatitis is the most common syndrome present in patients suffering from HIV. This disorder can affect people of all races and ages, it affects newborns, infants, and adults. Also, it is more severe in males as compared to females.

Also Read: Importance Of Vitamins To Maintain Skin Health

2. Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that is characterized by bumps on the skin that looks smooth, pearly and can be white, pink, or about the same color of the skin. Initially, these bumps are small in size but as it progresses the size of the bump can increase to a great extent. These bumps are known as molluscum. Molluscum bumps can also affect the skin and mostly affects the areas like eyelids, trunk, extremities, and genitalia. Generally, It does not involve palms and soles. Patients with HIV infection are more likely to develop severe molluscum contagiosum. In HIV infected patients, the molluscum contagiosum is occurred due to the reduced immune function. In fact, many researchers have suggested that this viral infection is a clinical sign of progressive HIV.

3. Prurigo nodularis

Prurigo nodularis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by papules and nodules with intense itching. These papules and nodules are mostly found on exposed extensor skin surfaces on the lower extremities. It can occur at all ages and equally in both sexes. It appears as a hard nodule with the watery and pigmented dark red surface with central crusts. Most often, it is surrounded by an irregular hyperpigmented ring. There are many conditions that can trigger the prurigo nodularis such as arthropod bite reactions, psychiatric illness, systemic disease, and HIV. HIV is one of the major risk factors of prurigo nodularis and there is a close relationship between the two diseases.

4. Photodermatitis

Photodermatitis is also known as sun allergy and it occurs due to the wrong reaction of the immune system to sunlight exposure. This skin condition is characterized by blisters, chilis, itchy bumps, pain, redness, swelling, and rash. Photodermatitis appears as pruritus, erythema, macules, and papules on the part of the skin that is exposed to the sunlight and it appears after one or two days of exposure and takes seven to ten days to resolve. It may also cause the hardening of the skin. In HIV patients, photosensitivity or photodermatitis can be considered as a clinical symptom of the progression of the disease.

5. Kaposi Sarcoma

Kaposi sarcoma is the most common type of tumor that is present in patients who are HIV infected. It is a form of cancer that affects the skin and it is characterized by the presence of lesions or spots that looks like a bruise and appear in a wide range of colors, from pink to red to purple in light-skinned people and from dark purple to brown to black in dark-skinned people. It can also develop in the mucosal tissue such as the lining of the mouth, in the lymph nodes, and also in the internal organs like the lungs, liver and bowel. It is believed that it occurs due to an overgrowth of the blood vessels. Kaposi sarcoma on the skin is not a physically serious problem but when it develops in the internal organs, it can be life-threatening. For example, if it develops in the lungs then the new blood vessels can block the airways and causes the buildup of fluid. As a result, it causes breathing problems.

Tags: What is usually the first sign of hiv, Hiv symptoms pictures, Molluscum contagiosum

Photo of author

Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.