Review| Volume 3, ISSUE 3, P164-167, March 1999

Epidemiology and management of diarrheal disease in HIV infected patients

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      Diarrhea is the most common gastrointestinal symptom in human immunodeficiency virus (HIS infection. It affects up to 90% of patients, becoming more frequent and severe as the immune system deteriorates. It often is associated with significant morbidity and mortality particularly in the developing countries. Gastrointestinal infections, some of which are attributable to inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene are the predominant cause of diarrhea, although multiple medications, including traditional herbs, also may be causes. The basic principles of management include detection of treatable causes, relief of symptoms, prevention of malnutrition, and psychosocial support. In up to 60% of cases, no cause can be identified, partly because of inadequate investigative facilities. Symptomatic treatment is the mainstay of management particularly when no cause can be identified. Unfortunately this can be extremely difficult when the patient is severely immune-suppressed. There is poor response to motility control drugs, such as loperamide, and others, such as octrectlde, are too expensive. Fluid replacement should be started early to prevent excessive dehydration. This should be combined with nutritional support to prevent malnutrition. Psychosocial support, including counselling, for both the patient and the caring relatives, is required to alleviate anxiety, particularly when the diarrhea becomes intractable.



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