Initial symptoms disappear soon and the person usually remains symptom free for a long time. With the passage of time, HIV progresses to AIDS and the entire body is affected. Different symptoms begin to appear. As the disease progresses, all the three main systems namely nervous system, muscular system and glandular system are affected. Gradually this effect becomes more evident. Symptoms may appear anywhere in the body where these systems and related organs are present.
- In the initial stages of AIDS, fluids start leaving the body and the constitution may start drying up and give a withered look. The glands (particularly liver) may begin to enlarge (but not always) and tend to become hypo functional.
- As the disease progresses, the muscles tend to shrink and the body tends to thin out. In other words, one starts to lose weight involuntarily.
- Appetite disappears.
- Different types of skin symptoms may appear.
- Diarrhea becomes frequent.
- Dry cough becomes nearly persistent.
- In some cases thirst may abnormally reduce.
- Sensitivity to cold may increase considerably.
- Recurring fever.
- Swelling of lymph glands all over the body.
- Function of liver deteriorates considerably. In fact it starts to slow down right from the initial stages.
- Persistent low blood pressure. In some cases it might become high.
- Profound weakness without significant reasons.
- In the most advanced stages, ulcers, cancer anywhere in the body, tuberculosis, loss of hair and rectal symptoms may appear.
- Anxiety, persistent depression and gradual loss of memory.
It is not necessary that all of these symptoms will appear in everyone. Each individual will show up differently. This is why symptoms of AIDS have been described differently in different write-ups.
With the progress of disease, all the above mentioned symptoms aggravate, become more pronounced and serious taking a rapid course.
- Hemorrhage from anywhere in the body may become a common feature.
- Process of losing weight becomes rapid.
- Lack of energy becomes much pronounced.
- Skin symptoms like growths, herpes, nodosities, rash and dryness etc. aggravate and skin becomes very sensitive, prone to bruises without sufficient cause.
- Mouth and tongue become sore.
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) increases. The sufferer feels exhausted even after least exertion.
- In short, all organs and systems suffer.
Thus AIDS has a nearly set course and progresses in three stages:
- Stage-1 This stage belongs to wet-cold group. From the first infection till symptoms of prolonged illness appear. This stage may also be called "dormant stage" or "symptom free period", which may vary from few months to 10 years or even much more. Destruction and weakening of immune system goes on during this period and one can infect others. There is a possibility that this stage may be curable with proper care and treatment.
- Stage-2 When the first stage is complete, the person moves to the next group, that is dry-cold. This is where the infection takes the shape of AIDS and starts progressing. At this stage, different symptoms as mentioned above start appearing. During early part of this stage, persistent low blood pressure and/or low body temperature may be experienced. Involuntary weight loss is associated with this stage. In some cases blood pressure might rise rather than being on the lower side. Till this stage, quality of life can be improved and further aggravation can be checked with proper and continued care.
- Stage-3 This is the last stage and is in fact an advancement of the second stage. At this stage the disease becomes incurable and most of the medicines become nearly ineffective. All the symptoms of stage 2 are highly aggravated and additional symptoms like hemorrhage etc. may also appear.
These conditions need to be managed very carefully. Use of wrong medicines or diet can speed up the destructive stage of AIDS.