Symptoms and Signs of Dementia Due to HIV Infection

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 11/24/2021

Doctor's Notes on Dementia Due to HIV Infection

Decline in mental processes is a common complication of HIV infection. Although the specific symptoms of dementia due to HIV infection vary from person to person, they may be part of a single disorder known as AIDS dementia complex (ADC), or HIV-associated dementia and HIV/AIDS encephalopathy.

Early symptoms of dementia due to HIV infection may include

  • reduced productivity at work,
  • difficulty concentrating,
  • mental slowness,
  • difficulty learning new things,
  • changes in behavior,
  • decreased sex drive,
  • forgetfulness,
  • confusion,
  • word-finding difficulty,
  • indifference,
  • withdrawal from hobbies or social activities, or
  • depression.

Symptoms of worsening dementia due to HIV infection include

  • speech problems,
  • balance problems,
  • clumsiness,
  • muscle weakness,
  • vision problems, or
  • loss of bladder control (and occasionally bowel control).

Rare symptoms of dementia due to HIV include sleep disturbances, psychosis, mania, or seizures.

What Is the Treatment for Dementia Due to HIV Infection?

The treatment of HIV-associated dementia is same antiretroviral therapies that treat HIV. Antiretroviral therapy keeps the immune system as healthy as possible and improves cognitive function. 

Various medications and therapies are also used to treat the symptoms of HIV-associated dementia. These medications and therapies include:

Patients with dementia due to HIV infection may also benefit from cognitive exercises, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. As the disease progresses, patients may need full-time caregivers. 

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.