A common problem among HIV-infected people is the HIV wasting syndrome, defined as unintended and progressive weight loss often accompanied by weakness, fever, nutritional deficiencies and diarrhea. The syndrome, also known as cachexia, can diminish the quality of life, exacerbate illness and increase the risk of death for people with HIV.
Wasting can occur as a result of HIV infection itself but also is commonly associated with HIV-related opportunistic infections and cancers. HIV wasting syndrome is diagnosed in HIV-infected people who have unintentionally lost more than 10 percent of their body weight. Most patients with advanced HIV disease and AIDS eventually experience some degree of wasting.
If you have AIDS, the following factors can work together to promote weight loss and wasting syndrome:
Not eating enough. It may be difficult to get adequate nutrition for reasons such as these:
- Poor appetite from HIV infection
- Medication side effects, such as nausea, changes in taste, or mouth tingling
- Opportunistic infection symptoms, such as a painful throat or sense of fullness
- Lack of money or energy to shop for and prepare meals
Not absorbing nutrients well. This may happen because:
- HIV directly affects the intestinal lining.
- Opportunistic infections interfere with absorption
- Medications cause diarrhea, which leads to loss of calories and nutrients
Changes in metabolism. This can occur for many reasons.
- HIV disease burns calories fast, so you need more calories to maintain your body weight. This need for extra calories may be caused by the increased activity of the immune system. Or it may be because HIV changes levels of hormones that affect how fast you burn calories
- People with HIV have high levels of proteins called cytokines. These make your body produce more fats and sugars, but fewer proteins.
Clinical Information Related to Wasting Syndrome and Medical Marijuana
- A Phase II Study of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for Appetite Stimulation in Cancer-Associated Anorexia
- Mechanism of Action of Cannabinoids: How it May Lead to Treatment of Cachexia, Emesis, and Pain
- Comparison of Orally Administered Cannabis Extract and Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Treating Patients With Cancer-Related Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome: A Multicenter, Phase III, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial From the Cannabis-InCachexia-Study-Group
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