Epidemiology and clinical features of HIV-1 associated neuropathies

A Verma
Journal of the Peripheral Nervous System: JPNS 2001, 6 (1): 8-13
Peripheral neuropathy is common in human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) infection. Peripheral neuropathies complicate all stages of the HIV-1 disease and cause considerable morbidity and disability in HIV-1 infected individuals and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients. Whereas symptomatic neuropathies occur in approximately 10% to 15% of HIV-1-infected patients overall, pathologic evidence of peripheral nerve involvement is present in virtually all end-stage AIDS patients. There are 6 major clinical types of HIV-associated neuropathies that are regularly seen in large HIV-1 clinics. Distal sensory polyneuropathy (DSP) is the most common among the HIV-1-associated neuropathies. DSP generally occurs in later stages of HIV-1 infection and it follows an indolent and protracted clinical course. The dominant clinical features in DSP include distal pain, paresthesia and numbness in a typical length-dependent fashion with proximal to distal gradient. Whereas toxic neuropathies--secondary to certain antiretroviral agents--are clinically similar to DSP, their temporal relation to neurotoxic medication helps distinguish them from other HIV-1-associated neuropathies. DSP and toxic neuropathy may coexist in a single patient. Acute and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathies (AIDP and CIDP) produce global limb weakness. AIDP may occur at seroconversion and it can therefore be the initial manifestation of HIV-1 infection. CIDP generally occurs in the mid to late stages of HIV-1 infection. Progressive polyradiculopathy (PP) occurs in patients with advanced immunodeficiency and is generally caused by the opportunist cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Mononeuropathy multiplex (MM) in early stages of HIV-1 infection is immune mediated, whereas in advanced AIDS it is caused by the CMV infection. Finally, subclinical autonomic nervous system involvement is common in all stages of HIV-1 infection. Because HIV-1-associated neuropathies are diverse in their etiology and pathogenesis, a precise clinical diagnosis is required to formulate a rational therapeutic intervention.

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