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AIDS dementia complex

AIDS dementia complex is a form of dementia associated with having AIDS.

Aids dementia complex, or ADC, can affect a person's thinking abilities, behaviour, coordination, movement and mood.

Although HIV does not infect brain nerve cells, the virus may indirectly kill them, especially if immune systems are weakened.

AIDS dementia complex varies greatly from person to person. Symptoms may progress quickly or slowly.

Signs and symptoms of AIDS dementia complex

The signs and symptoms of AIDS dementia complex can be similar to other HIV-related problems, such as opportunistic infections or side effects from drugs. This makes it more difficult to diagnose and understand.

These are some of the first signs and symptoms of AIDS dementia complex:

  • Short attention span
  • Having trouble remembering
  • Poor judgement
  • Sluggish thinking and longer time needed to do tasks
  • Irritability
  • Unsteady gait, tremor, or trouble staying balanced
  • Poor hand coordination
  • Social withdrawal or depression

In later stages, you may have more severe symptoms:

If you think you may have AIDS dementia complex, write down your symptoms to share with your doctor. Also, do what you can to put together a support system. Although you can receive treatment for AIDS dementia complex, it may take some time for you to feel better.

Diagnosis of AIDS dementia complex

AIDS dementia complex can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor will work to rule out other problems, while recognising that you may have more than one HIV-related problem causing the same symptoms. These are tests your doctor may arrange if AIDS dementia complex is a possibility:

A mental state examination is the main way to diagnose AIDS dementia complex. It can spot problems such as memory loss, problems with abstract thinking, and mood swings. This examination involves answering questions and performing tasks. The person conducting the test may also assess your speech, appearance, and other aspects of your functioning.

A computed tomography (CT) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of your brain can help rule out other possible brain disorders. These may include a type of cancer called lymphoma or toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite. A CT scan uses X-rays to produce detailed images of the inside of your brain. MRI uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of the inside of your brain.

A lumbar punctureor spinal tap involves examining cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal canal. It can also help rule out other problems.

Treating AIDS dementia complex

HAART is the most effective approach to treating AIDS dementia complex, although the prognosis is uncertain. HAART may improve mental function if you already have ADC. It may also prevent or delay the onset of ADC. The idea with treatment is to aggressively decrease HIV below a level where it can be detected. This is often done with a combination of 3 different drugs. Because of symptoms of dementia, you may need help to remember to take your medication.

In addition to HAART, your doctor may prescribe drugs to treat symptoms of AIDS dementia complex only. These may include antipsychotics, antidepressants, or psychostimulants.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on April 25, 2016

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