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Being Alive
AIDS Dementia Complex
Mark Katz, MD, and reported by Jim Stoecker
February 5, 1995
Being Alive 1995 Feb 5: 6

The incidence of AIDS Dementia Complex is something less than 10%. Nonetheless, a majority of people with late stage AIDS will manifest some symptoms. AIDS Dementia Complex was first described in 1986 and was added to the CDC's list of AIDS-defining conditions. Only a small number receive an AIDS diagnosis because of dementia. In 1990, for instance, just 2.7% of AIDS cases were defined because of AIDS Dementia.

Early symptoms of AIDS Dementia can be confused with general manifestations of clinical depression. These include apathy, loss of interest in one's surroundings and the like. Later symptoms involve cognitive and motor problems. Memory loss, as well as mobility problems, come into the picture. Diagnosing AIDS Dementia Complex is difficult. CAT scans are usually used, though these could be normal. Neuropsychiatric testing is required. Various other scans may also be called for. Treatment is usually individualized; there is no one accepted way to treat all cases. AZT in high doses is usually used, although the drug appears to help more with motor problems and less with cognitive problems. Other drugs to reduce brain inflammation may also be tried. Finally, there is symptomatic treatment; drugs are used to treat the specific symptoms of the individual.