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Visible Signs of HIV

author image Laura Candelaria
Laura Candelaria is a family nurse practitioner and assistant professor of nursing and nutritional science. Her experience includes neonatal and pediatric intensive-care, women's oncology, gynecology, obstetrics, lactation, nutrition and infertility. She has been published in "Nursing Spectrum," "Newsday" and on various websites.
Visible Signs of HIV
Some signs of HIV are readily apparent. Photo Credit: roobcio/iStock/Getty Images

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a chronic incurable disease spread through exposure to infected blood and/or body fluids through sexual contact, intravenous needle sharing, or during childbirth from mother to child. Symptoms may begin as early as two to three weeks following infection and resemble flu symptoms. These symptoms can often go unnoticed while additional signs of HIV may not appear for up to 10 years. During this time the disease is slowly destroying the body's immune cells. However, some symptoms of early and latent HIV can be visible.

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Maculopapular Rash

According to Medline, a rash of various types, including seborrheic dermatitis, may occur during early infection with HIV. The rash may appear slightly raised, and small and dark in color. This rash can affect any area of the body but usually appears on the face, trunk, hands, and feet. In some cases, the rash could appear as ulcers in the mouth or on genitals. The rash may appear visual for about two weeks. It usually occurs at the time of seroconversion about two to three weeks after transmission. It may occur in conjunction with fever, diarrhea, muscle aches, swollen lymph glands and headache.

Skin Lesions and Thrush

Different types of skin lesions can appear with HIV infection. Herpes simplex lesions may occur and appear to be small, fluid-filled vesicles. They are extremely painful and spread easily. Psoriasis can occur during HIV infection.The lesions are characterized by erythematous plaques of varying sizes with adherent silvery scales, reports the World Health Organization. Kaposi's Sarcoma is a skin condition characterized by red or purple patches that may be painful but do not itch. The lesions are made up of cancer cells and blood cells. Thrush can also be a sign of HIV. Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth are a sign of thrush, reports the Mayo Clinic.

Enlarged Lymph Glands

Another apparent sign of HIV infection is enlarged and swollen lymph glands. Enlarged lymph nodes may appear in early infection and last for a few weeks, and can also be present in later infection lasting for up to three months or more. Lymph nodes are present throughout the entire body. Infected nodes during HIV infection usually appear in the neck, armpits, and groin area. Lymph nodes may be slightly enlarged or appear as large as golf balls during HIV infection. They are usually tender and painful to the touch.

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