The signs and symptoms of HIV may not be noticeable during the initial stage of infection. Despite this, the infected individual could still transmit HIV to other people. Thus, detecting it early is very important. Many of the symptoms of HIV in women are similar to those in men, but there are some symptoms that are specific to women. This article discusses the ten most common signs and symptoms of HIV in women.
The initial symptoms of HIV usually resemble those of flu, such as feeling lethargic, having headaches, and developing a fever. These usually disappear after a few weeks. However, there are extreme cases wherein it can take up to a decade before more extreme symptoms of HIV begin to manifest.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease, or “PID,” is an illness wherein the woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus becomes infected. It is more difficult to treat PID in women infected with HIV. The symptoms also recur more often or last longer than usual for HIV-infected women.
Sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)
If you are a woman positive for HIV, your risk of contracting STDs is increased greatly. Some of the most common STDs include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV), which can result in genital warts or cervical cancer.
If you already suffer from genital herpes, you may experience more often and more severe outbreaks. Furthermore, you may not respond as well as before to your treatment for herpes.
Yeast and bacterial infections
Yeast and bacterial infections become more common for HIV-infected women, and also more difficult to treat. Yeast infections are an overgrowth of the yeast that you already have in your body. Bacterial infections, also known as vaginitis or vaginal infection, are the cause, and are most notable, because of the terrible smell they create.
Changes in menstrual periods
If you become infected with HIV, you may experience changes in your menstrual period. For example, you may not have a period at all. Also, your menstrual flow may be heavier or lighter than usual. Your premenstrual symptoms (PMS) may also be more intense.
Night sweat and fever
HIV-infected individuals may go through long periods of fever that is low-grade, which ranges from 37.6 to 38.2 degrees Celsius. As you can see, it is not that high. This is why people who are unaware that they have HIV usually just disregard this symptom, thinking it’s not something serious since it’s low-grade. Furthermore, this fever may be accompanied by night sweats.
Because HIV impairs the immune system’s ability to fight against infections, bacteria, and viruses, it becomes much easier for the body to develop opportunistic infections such as Hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. In addition, the simple flu may be harder to treat for HIV-positive individuals. They may also become more susceptible to infections of the brain, digestive tract, kidneys, lungs, eyes, and skin.
Enlarged lymph nodes
A human body has many different lymph nodes found in the groin, armpits, back of the head, and the neck. These lymph nodes fight infection by filtering harmful foreign substances and storing immune cells.
Once the HIV infection begins to proliferate, the body’s immune system works double time, resulting in enlarged lymph nodes. This is also more commonly referred to as “swollen glands.” This is usually one of the first signs of HIV and could last up to a couple of months.
Skin sores and rashes
Skin issues, such as sores and rashes, become common for persons infected with HIV. Lesions or sores may develop on the infected person’s anus, genitals, and mouth, and may be hard to cure. The risk of developing shingles and herpes is also increased greatly. Furthermore, the skin of HIV-infected individuals usually becomes very sensitive to sunlight and irritants, resulting in rashes.
These can be in the form of flaky skin, and flat, red patches with tiny bumps. However, these skin issues may become less intense with the right medication administered properly.
As the HIV infection enters the advanced phase and becomes worse, more severe symptoms may be experienced such as:
- Difficulty swallowing
- A recurring cough
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle and joint pains or aches
- Intense headaches
- Unexplained weight loss
In the later phase, HIV can also result in coma, mental confusion, or short-term memory loss. The last stage of this advanced phase is HIV developing into AIDS. Once this stage is reached, the body’s immune system is already extremely compromised.