Understanding the Etiology and Management of HIV-Associated Peripheral Neuropathy
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HIV may cause several forms of peripheral neuropathy, the most common of which is distal symmetric polyneuropathy (DSP) characterized by pain and sensory deficits in a stocking-glove distribution. The pathophysiology of DSP remains largely unknown but is thought to be related both to the neurotoxicity of HIV—through indirect immunomodulatory mechanisms—and to the neurotoxic effects of anti-retroviral therapies, most notably the dideoxynucleoside reverse transcription inhibitors or so-called d-drugs. Determining whether symptoms arise from the virus or the treatment poses a challenge to the clinician who must decide if a patient’s HAART regimen should be altered. Treatment of symptoms related to HIV-DSP is a difficult task and there is no evidence that the traditional agents used in chronic neuropathic pain are efficacious in the HIV-DSP population. Indeed few pharmacologic agents have proven efficacy in HIV-DSP – these include cannabis and the capsaicin 8 % dermal patch. As such, alternative, non-pharmacologic therapies are being investigated. More research is needed to further elucidate the complex pathophysiology of HIV-DSP which may yield additional therapies for these patients.
KeywordsHIV Peripheral neuropathy Distal symmetric polyneuropathy, DSP Anti-retroviral Pain
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Conflict of Interest
Kara Stavros declares that she has no conflict of interest.
David M. Simpson reports personal fees from Astellas, Acorda, Pfizer, Depomed, grants from Astellas, Pfizer, and outside the submitted work.
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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
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