is a viral infection and as such has no known cure. There are
currently no medications available to effectively treat this
disease. Your only line of defense is a healthy immune
system. But not to be dismayed, a healthy
immune system is perfectly capable of keeping the HIV and other
viruses in check, if not completely eliminate them.
What is Neurological Manifestations of AIDS?
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 cognition.
Is there any 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. Drug "cocktails"
recommended to treat AIDS can cause neuropathy. Neurological
complications of AIDS are often underrecognized by AIDS clinicians, so
patients who suspect they are having neurological complications should
be sure to discuss these with their doctor.
What is the 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?
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