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Early Symptoms of HIV-Related Neuropathy

author image Jacques Courseault
As a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician I have extensive experience in musculoskeletal/neurological medicine that will benefit the network.
Early Symptoms of HIV-Related Neuropathy
Leg pain is an early symptom of HIV neuropathy. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

HIV-related neuropathy is a chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy, causing damage to nerves in the brain or spinal column or to nerves elsewhere in the body. The term polyneuropathy means that several nerves are involved. This form of neuropathy occurs because the body’s immune system overreacts to the HIV and damages the body’s nerves. A person with HIV neuropathy should be aware of certain early symptoms of this condition.

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Numbness and Tingling

HIV neuropathy can cause numbness and tingling as the immune system damages the nerves. Early on, numbness and tingling may be felt in the fingers and toes, later progressing into the arms and legs. A person with a known history of HIV who is experiencing a new onset numbness and tingling should immediately schedule an appointment with his physician for treatment.


Another early symptom of HIV neuropathy is weakness, which usually occurs in the arms and hands, or legs and feet. As HIV progresses, the immune system may cause further damage early in the course of the disease. Increasing nerve damage can cause weakness in the extremities, which may make it difficult to perform activities of daily living. In this case, the person should not hesitate to seek immediate medical treatment so that the proper therapy can be started to prevent further worsening of this weakness.


Pain is a common early symptom associated with HIV neuropathy. This condition often causes pain in the fingers, toes, arms or legs. Pain may be described as burning, achy or tingling. In this case, medications may be prescribed to help a person cope with the pain. Controlling the underlying progression of HIV will slow the onset of further complications from HIV neuropathy.

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