HIV Skin Rash: Early Symptoms and How it is Treated

HIV Rash: What Does It Look Like

Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is the virus which develops into AIDS. An important symptom of HIV is a dark skin rash which occurs around 3 weeks after infection with the virus. It is vital to know the signs or symptoms of this HIV rash so that proper steps can be taken to diagnose and battle this disease.

When people first get HIV, they may have flu-like symptoms called a seroconversion illness. This illness may include a non-itchy, red rash lasting 2 to 3 weeks. During ongoing infection, the immune system becomes damaged and this may lead to red and itchy (pruritic) skin. This may be treated with steroid creams or antihistamines. Skin problems may also occur when the immune system starts to recover due to HIV treatment (especially acne and folliculitis, infection of the follicles) and appear to be a good sign of returning immune capacity.

  • RashesHIV rash is the most common HIV symptom. Many times, the skin is just extra sensitive to chemicals and sunlight. Sometimes the rash is caused by HIV. The typical HIV rash is often a flat red area on the skin that is covered with small bumps. Most allergies can be seen within 1 week to 2 weeks of new medication getting started. Rash also has other causes; these are Molluscum contagiosum, Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster infections, drug eruptions, and Kaposi sarcoma lesions. Also, an HIV skin rash can be the result of a medication that is used to treat HIV.
  • ShinglesIt is caused by Herpes Zoster virus.  It is a painful, blistering skin rash that looks like water blisters in a stripe or on one side of the body in an area covering inches to feet. This is due to reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which stayed dormant in your body since childhood. Shingles usually only involves one side of the body. It commonly involves the trunk and less often involves an arm, leg or region of the face. Development of shingles may be the first clue that someone is infected with HIV and that their immune system has been weakened. This painful condition can last for several weeks and occasionally spreads to other parts of the body. Several oral anti-viral medications are helpful. Early treatment can reduce the severity and duration of pain associated with shingles. Any involvement of the face or eye is a medical emergency.
  • LesionsLesions in your skin can be caused by multiple infections. For example, Herpes Simplex I and II are well known for being the main cause of herpes lesions on the skin. It can happen anywhere on the skin. It can take several days to heal. Experts say it can take from seven to fourteen days.

read more about Facts about Heat rash (prickly heat)

HIV Rash Causes

As aforesaid, individuals with acute HIV infection are likely to develop such rashes. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a dreadful retrovirus, which typically invades tissues lining the vagina, anal region, mouth, or eyes. The infection slowly progresses through three stages. The painful rashes however, mark the primary stage of infection along with other flu-like symptoms. The dermatologic manifestation can occur during seroconversion when detectable antibodies are produced against the infectious agents in the blood.

HIV Rash Symptoms

An individual who tests positive for HIV may see what is often referred to as the HIV rash. At some point during the illness, at least 85% of HIV victims will have this rash. The symptoms occur around 2 to 4 weeks after a person is infected. But it should be noted that rash symptoms do not always occur in individual infected with HIV and having a rash does not mean that HIV has been contracted. Rashes are very common and can be caused by many diverse reasons.

An HIV rash can look frightful, but physicians say it is not a cause for concern. An individual should speak with their physician if skin ulcers develop which can cause bacteria infection. There are other rashes that are common for instance heat rash, eczema as well as rashes due to stress so it is important to not get into a stage of panic.

Signs and symptoms of this HIV rash includes:

  • Brown or red razor skin bumps resembling eczema. Bumps are dark red and brown in individuals with light skin while in those having dark skin; these bumps are dark purple and black.
  • Rashes affect any part of body, but develop mostly on areas such as the face, hands, feet as well as trunk.
  • Some individuals may experience blisters in the moist regions of the body such as mouth, genitals as well as eyes.
  • Folliculitis, pimples as well as acne may occur around follicles of hair on most skin areas of the body.
  • Rashes may also itch in some individuals.
  • Additional acute symptoms include skin peeling that can cause blisters as well as sores in the areas of the genitals.
  • Individuals with rashes are also likely to develop fever, diarrhea, headaches, decease in weight as well as vision problems.
  • Swollen glands, muscle pains and aches, loss of memory, extreme fatigues, painful and stiff joints as well as regular fevers that are not explainable.
  • Herpes virus infection can cause the symptoms of HIV rashes to worsen especially in individuals at the advanced stage of HIV. Characterized by red rashes that appear as fluid-filled blisters especially with individuals with weakened immune system.
  • Other Skin rashes include
  • Molluscum contagiosum
  • HPV warts
  • Tinea
  • Scabies
  • Psoriasis
  • Hives
  • Eosinophilic follicutitis

Often during the 3rd stage of HIV which is known as symptomatic HIV, rashes which are more concentrated may occur. This is the stage of HIV which lasts from 1 to 3 years and occurs before full AIDS develops. The rashes throughout this stage are pink and often scaly. This form of HIV rash may show up on the scalp, face, armpit, chest as well as groin. It is imperative for individuals with HIV to take care of their health as well as the immune system to be able to defend against infections or complications.

read more about Symptoms of Heat Rash

Difference between HIV rash and Heat Rash (HIV rash vs. Heat Rash)

You can differentiate between HIV rash and Heat rash by its appearance. Heat rash (Miliaria) are of 3 kinds :

  • Miliaria Crystalline. This kind of heat rash is mild in nature. Patients might observe multiple tiny blisters filled with fluid.
  • Miliaria Rubra. It is an itchy rash present present with red bumps. They are as well tiny in nature.
  • Miliaria Profunda. It is a rare and most severe form of Heat rash. Patients might experience symptoms like dizziness, lack of sweating and heart palpitation. It looks like goose bumps and are skin colored in mostly.

Difference between Acne and HIV Rash 

Acne may appear differently on different people, it depends on the skin color and severeness of it. The best way to differentiate between Hiv rash and acne is to follow the HIV symptoms and consult a doctor if you have them.

Difference between HIV Rash and Hives 

Hives are present with red base and circular red bumps on it. It looks a lot different than HIV rash in appearance.

Medication Alert

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that three main classes of anti-HIV drugs are responsible for causing skin rashes:

  • NNRTIs
  • NRTIs
  • PIs

NNRTIs such as nevirapine (Viramune) are the most common cause of medication skin rashes. Abacavir (Ziagen) is an NRTI drug that can cause skin rashes. The most likely PIs to cause rashes are amprenavir (Agenerase) and tipranavir (Aptivus)

read more about Heat Rash Pictures

HIV Rash Treatment

Appropriate diagnosis of any rash is very important before beginning any treatment for it. Typically HIV rashes last 1 to 2 weeks. So, if an individual notices a skin rash which is especially accompanied by any of the above mentioned symptoms; the individual should meet with their physician as quickly as possible. There is no therapy or cure of the HIV infection. Many physicians can prescribe OTC drugs to relieve the irritation as well as any itchiness which is caused. Physicians also advise the individual to avoid any exposure to extreme cold or heat as this can worsen any rash or itchiness of the skin.

Apart from the above, individuals should know that it is always desirable to follow preventive actions to evade the problems of HIV infections. Practicing safe sex as well as staying away from “blood to blood” contact is the major measures to stop HIV infections.

Also it is important to know as well as be able to diagnosis HIV rash symptoms as they are one of the first spotting signs of AIDS. But, individuals need to keep in mind that skin rash is not always a sign of HIV.

Once the individual’s physician is aware of any new developments, there are some things that can be done to help relieve the constant itching, skin irritation as well as swelling. These include:

  • Avoid extremely hot baths or showers as well as any direct sunlight. Heat will only aggravate any itchy skin rashes
  • Take baths as well as showers which are cool and apply cold compress several times a day.
  • Wear clothing which is light if at all possible, keeping the areas which are affected uncovered as clothing can irritate common rashes as well as cause itching.
  • Keep notes on any new foods or soaps which can have triggered the rash. This may point to allergy involvement.

Be on the lookout for what coincides with development of your rash. If you’ve just started a new medication, tried a new soap, or eaten a particular food before your rash starts, it’s possible an allergy may be the cause. If in doubt, talk to your doctor. 

Talk to Your Doctor

Though a rash is uncomfortable, it can be useful in helping your doctor to identify and diagnose an HIV infection. Talk to your doctor right away if you notice skin changes or if you experience itchiness, redness, or discomfort. You can take steps to manage the condition and improve your quality of life.