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Skin rashes and growths - AIDS

The majority of people with AIDS develop skin problems which are usually an exaggeration of things common to most people, such as acne and rashes of various kinds. Cold sores and genital herpes may develop, or warts. Athlete's foot in severe forms, ringworm and thrush are common. Rashes due to food allergy are also common---no one knows why. Hair frequently falls out. Drug rashes frequently occur, often due to life-saving co-trimoxazole used for treatment or prevention of the pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.

Kaposi's sarcoma develops in up to a quarter of the people with AIDS (depending on the country and route of infection). This produces blue or red hard painless patches on the skin, often on the face. In the majority of these people it is the first sign of AIDS. Tumours can spread to lymph nodes, gut lining and lungs where they can be confused with pneumocystis pneumonia. The growths may be caused by a second virus that is allowed to grow more easily if you have AIDS. Treatment consists mainly of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, including injections of the lesions.

Because it often affects the face or may be visible elsewhere on the body and is so distinctive, people who develop Kaposi's sarcoma often feel especially vulnerable. In fact people usually live longer if they first develop this tumour than if they first develop a pneumonia. Kaposi's sarcoma is less common in drug users with AIDS, presumably because it is caused by a second virus also found in , which is then activated by HIV.

The other common cancer is a tumour (lymphoma) which develops in the brain or elsewhere in the body.