HIV - Prevention Expert Forum
HIV infection and Peripheral Neuropathy
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This forum is limited to prevention of HIV and to safe sex in general. All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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HIV infection and Peripheral Neuropathy

Hi,
I have had two sexual partners this year (2011). One of my partners, we have practiced safe vaginal sex (using a condom) everytime and unprotected oral sex twice (I was the receptor or "giver". The second time ejaculate in my mouth, of which I quick spit out). My other sexual partner that I have been with for the past seven years, I had unprotected vaginal sex with him on May 29th. Fast forward to last week. On or around  Friday, June 17th, I started to get this tickling sensation all over my body (feels like minor chills, but more of a tickling sensation). The next day, I developed minor aches and pains. By Sunday, I developed stiff neck that lasted for a day or so. A couple of days later, the pain in my stifff neck traveled down to my lower left side of my back, producing stabbing pains. That lasted for like a day or so. Now the pain is gone, but now (just about every night that I go to sleep or lay down) the tickling sensation is back, but it's primarily in my right arm (from my fingertips to my shoulders). I've read that peripheral neuropathy is a common early sign of primary HIV infection in WOMEN. In contrast, I have seen tha PN is seen in HIV positive folks, but only in later stages of the disease or primarily due from HIV meds. I know that I am high risk of exposure due to the incident of unprotected vaginal sex and the incident of unprotected oral sex. My last HIV test (which was negative) was October 2010. Any information or feedback you can provide is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Welcome to the Forum. I will try to provide a bit of perspective but my advice would be to go and get tested.  the test results will, I suspect, verify what I am about to tell you and provide peace of mind.  If your symptoms were due to HIV your test will be positive.

Your risk for HIV is not high. HIV is not spread by oral sex and is relatively rarely acquire through vaginal intercourse, occurring only about once for every 1000 sexual exposures to an infected partner. It is unlikely that either or your partners has HIV unless there is something you have not mentioned.  The likelihood of HIV in a heterosexual man who does not use IV drugs in North America is less than 1 in 10,000.  Thus the numbers are very much on your side, being mathematically something less than 1 in 10 million.  

I am not aware of data to suggest that peripheral neuropathy is a common manifestation of early HIV in women.  It it really not all that common in HIV at all and when it is seen it typically occurs in the late stages, after years of infection.  Further, your symptoms which sound as though they have come and gone do not sound like a typical peripheral neuropathy which usually would not come and go.  If you continue to have such sensations, I'd discuss them with a doctor but I would not worry that they were a manifestation of HIV.  

Finally, stress can certainly give rise to unusual sensations or heighten sensations which are naturally present.

Bottom line, little you mention raises concerns about HIV for me.  Testing will provide answerers an I suspect, resolve your concerns.  It is now 4 weeks since your last sexual experience at 4 weeks HIV tests would detect over 90% of recently acquired infections but, as I said above, if your symptoms were due to HIV, the test would already be positive.  I hope my comments are reassuring an helpful.  EWH
4 Comments
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I would like to add that I have been under stress the last couple of weeks due worrying about my pap smear results (which came back normal), and the IRS (lol). Could anxiety be a factor?
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Avatar_m_tn
Thanks for your response, Dr. Hook. Are you saying that if my symptoms (potential peripheral neuropathy) were associated with HIV, my last test (October 2010) would have been positive? And thanks for your reassurance...I feel better already!
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Yes.  Periferal neuropathy is not a sign of early HIV.  EWH
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