Early Symptoms of HIV-Related Neuropathy

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.

Leg pain is an early symptom of HIV neuropathy. Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

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.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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