HIV-Related Health Issues: Early Signs and Management of Lipodystrophy


In disproportionate fat distribution is common in many diseases and illnesses. For adults who live with HIV, this fat irregularity can have life threatening health complications. While there are many health complications that arise out of an HIV diagnosis, the condition involving fat irregularities, known as lipodystrophy often requires immediate health attention.

Lipodystrophy is the health complication that involves both a change in metabolic processes as well as a change in peripheral fat and central fat distribution. While lipodystrophy can occur in many diseases and illness, it is most commonly found among adults who live with HIV. The underlying basis for development of lipodystrophy in HIV patients is believed to be associated with the use of highly potent antiretroviral therapy.

If you, or someone you loves, is living with HIV, it is important to know what the warning signs of early lipodystrophy development may be. Most commonly the face, buttocks, arms and legs will begin to show a wasting or abnormal fat distribution. In contrast additional fat will begin to accumulate around the neck, back, abdomen and around the upper back or shoulder area. When confirmed as suffering from lipodystrophy, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon may be able to offer some health solutions for HIV patients.

Treating the areas where atrophy has occurred, these healthcare professionals can usually apply an injection technique that involves the use of autologous fat. When not available, your healthcare professional may recommend the use of soft tissue filler from another area of the body. While some manufactured facial fillers can be used, it is best to utilize your body's natural tissue as it provides for the best outcome.

In the case of excess fat accumulation, the use of liposuction is most common and is successful at removing the additional fat deposits along the abdomen, neck, back and shoulder region. This, of course, does not address the complications associated with underlying cause of the development of lipodystrophy in HIV patients. If you notice that your fat distributions are imposing an excessive amount of distress, it may be important to seek medical attention to remove or re-distribute the fat accordingly. However, it will also be important to discuss medication management in the process. For many HIV patients, even after treatment to improve complications of lipodystrophy, if the underlying cause and origin is not resolved, the metabolic issues and development of new atrophy complications will arise. When living with HIV, this is one of the many health complications that must be addressed in the course of disease management.

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