By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
Neuropathy (“nerve damage”) affects an
estimated 20 million Americans according to
The Neuropathy Association. Damage to
the nerves can create burning and sometimes
“stabbing” pains in the feet.
In some cases, anti-cancer and retroviral
treatments may create their own painful side
effects, some of which can be balanced by other
medications, including antidepressant therapy.
This immune deficiency virus makes patients
of all ages susceptible to yeast infections,
throat and mouth sores and other viruses that
can attack the body. Bacterial infections
are experienced, too, and require antibiotics as
the doctor decides.
The AIDS patient may have skin eruptions, and
these sores or rashes contribute to pain and
require treatment. For example, Kaposi
sarcoma is a skin lesion seen in the AIDS
patient that initially doesn’t cause pain, but
as it becomes worse, pain can be extreme.
While Kaposi is not considered “curable,” it can
be treated by an oncologist or dermatologist
with experience in this area.
Mouth sores or other conditions affecting the
mouth can hamper eating, whether the foods are
acidic or not. Physicians are familiar
with this aspect of the challenges of living
with AIDS, and may recommend supplements in
addition to other treatment for thrush or mouth
sores. Accommodate your loved one’s
choices in whether or not to eat at given times,
and oversee that medications are taken when
ordered, even if alternate routes must be
In some cases, individuals with AIDS may have
a concurrent infection with the Hepatitis C
virus, which also challenges pain management and
treatment. When doctors assess for pain in
the AIDS patient, they look for other causes of
pain, even if the pain felt is typical for an
AIDS patient. Hepatitis C is one
possibility for a “co-infection,” but other
conditions such as cancers of organs or blood
may be present.
Treating the root cause of pain (such as
mouth or ear pain from infections) is the
doctor’s priority, which is the reason why
patients may be at the doctor or hospitalized
frequently. The choice is to act quickly
to stop infections from causing more problems.
CONTROLLING PAIN IN CANCER
The National Cancer Institute
(www.cancer.gov) offers an online booklet to
assist cancer patients and their caregivers with
“Cancer pains” may arise from chemotherapy or
radiation, creating nerve damage or phantom pain
from body parts that have been removed.
Radiation can cause painful “sunburn” during
Whenever there is surgery performed,
temporary pain may be experienced because skin
and organs are cut and maneuvered around.
Post-surgical pain fades with time and
appropriate management, which may include
physical therapy and resuming daily activities.
The growth of cancer within the body
contributes to pain, also. As cancer is
being treated, therapeutic levels of controlling
the growth are sought; but patients may still
experience pain while waiting for the abnormal
cells to be eradicated. This is where pain
control offers a great deal to assist in stress
reduction and continuing patient compliance with
therapy. It’s difficult to ask a loved one
to continue with treatment when pain makes them
feel they aren’t getting better, and the goal is
to quickly assess the level of pain to begin
pain control. It makes the treatment much
easier to cope with, for caregiver and loved