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HIV-related neuropathy: current perspectives

Authors Schütz SG, Robinson-Papp J

Received 15 May 2013

Accepted for publication 8 July 2013

Published 11 September 2013 Volume 2013:5 Pages 243—251

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/HIV.S36674

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5


Sonja G Schütz, Jessica Robinson-Papp

Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

Abstract: Distal symmetric polyneuropathy (DSP) related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is one of the most common neurologic complications of HIV, possibly affecting as many as 50% of all individuals infected with HIV. Two potentially neurotoxic mechanisms have been proposed to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of HIV DSP: neurotoxicity resulting from the virus and its products; as well as adverse neurotoxic effects of medications used in the treatment of HIV. Clinically, HIV DSP is characterized by a combination of signs and symptoms that include decreased deep tendon reflexes at the ankles and decreased sensation in the distal extremities as well as paresthesias, dysesthesias, and pain in a symmetric stocking–glove distribution. These symptoms are generally static or slowly progressive over time, and depending on the severity, may interfere significantly with the patient's daily activities. In addition to the clinical picture, nerve conduction studies and skin biopsies are often pursued to support the diagnosis of HIV DSP. Anticonvulsants, antidepressants, topical agents, and nonspecific analgesics may help relieve neuropathic pain. Specifically, gabapentin, lamotrigine, pregabalin, amitriptyline, duloxetine, and high-dose topical capsaicin patches have been used in research and clinical practice. Further research is needed to elucidate the pathogenesis of HIV DSP, thus facilitating the development of novel treatment strategies. This review discusses the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical findings, diagnosis, and management of DSP in the setting of HIV.

Keywords: neuropathy, human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, distal symmetric polyneuropathy, DSP, pain

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