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Neurological Manifestations Of
What are the neurological manifestations of AIDS?
DESCRIPTION: Acquired immune
deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the result of an infection with the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus attacks selected
cells of the immune, nervous, and other systems impairing their
proper function. HIV infection may cause damage to the brain and
spinal cord, causing encephalitis (inflammation of the brain),
meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain),
nerve damage, difficulties in thinking (i.e., AIDS dementia
complex), behavioral changes, poor circulation, headache, and
stroke. AIDS-related cancers such as lymphoma and opportunistic
infections (OI) may also affect the nervous system. Neurological
symptoms may be mild in the early stages of AIDS, but may become
severe in the final stages. Complications vary widely from one
patient to another. Cerebral toxoplasmosis, a common OI in AIDS
patients, causes such symptoms as headache, confusion, lethargy,
and low-grade fever. Other symptoms may include weakness, speech
disturbance, ataxia, apraxia, seizures, and sensory loss.
Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a disorder that
can also occur in AIDS patients, causes weakness, hemiparesis or
facial weakness, dysphasia, vision loss, and ataxia. Some
patients with PML may also develop compromised memory and
Is there any treatment?
TREATMENT: There is no cure for AIDS
but recently developed, experimental treatments appear very
promising. Some symptoms and complications may improve with
treatment. For example, antidementia drugs may relieve confusion
and slow mental decline. Infections may be treated with
antibiotics. Radiation therapy may be needed to treat
AIDS-related cancers present in the brain or spinal cord.
What is the prognosis?
PROGNOSIS: The prognosis for
individuals with AIDS in recent years has improved significantly
because of new drugs and treatments, and educational and
What research is being done?
RESEARCH: The NINDS supports a broad
spectrum of basic and clinical research studies on the
neurological complications of AIDS. Much of this research is
conducted at leading biomedical research institutions across the
Where can I find more information?
These articles, available from a medical
library, are sources of in-depth information on the neurological
manifestations of AIDS:
McArthur, J. "Neurologic Manifestations of Human
Immunodeficiency Virus Infection." In Diseases of the
Nervous System: Clinical Neurobiology, W.B. Saunders Co.,
Philadelphia, pp. 1312-1330 (1992).
Mintz, M, and Epstein, L. "Neurologic Manifestations of
Pediatric Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Clinical Features
and Therapeutic Approaches." Seminars in Neurology,
12:1; 51-56 (March 1992).
Newton, H. "Common Neurologic Complications of HIV-1
Infection and AIDS." American Family Physician, 51:2;
387-398 (February 1, 1995).
Pajeau, A, and Roman, G. "HIV Encephalopathy and
Dementia." Psychiatric Clinics of North America,
15:2; 455-466 (June 1992).
Simpson, D, and Tagliati, M. "Neurologic Manifestations
of HIV Infection." Annals of Internal Medicine,
121:10; 769-785 (November 1994).
Additional information or services are available from the
(last updated April 7, 1998):
American Foundation for AIDS Research
733 Third Ave., 12th Flr.
New York, NY 10017
Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
1311 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404
CDC National AIDS Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 6003
Rockville, MD 20849-6003
National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
Building 31, Room 7A50
Bethesda, MD 20892-2520
National Association of People with AIDS
1413 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service
P.O. Box 6421
Rockville, MD 20849-6421
Information provided by NIH.