Kaposi’s Sarcoma 101
If the immune system is weakened, the risk of contracting the human herpesvirus type 8 increases, which is held responsible for the development of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a cancer that manifests itself as brown to bluish spots and tumors on the skin and mucous membranes.
What is Kaposi’s sarcoma?
In some cases, a successful treatment of Kaposi’s sarcoma also requires the use of chemotherapy. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Kaposi’s Sarcoma.
In medicine, one speaks of a Kaposi’s sarcoma in the case of a certain type of cancer. This does not exclusively but frequently occur in people who also suffer from AIDS. The so-called human herpesvirus type 8, also known as “HHV-8” for short, is suspected to be the cause of Kaposi’s sarcoma, which, together with various cofactors, triggers the characteristics typical of Kaposi’s sarcoma. Women are affected much less frequently than men.
The formation of a Kaposi’s sarcoma can only occur if the immune system of an affected person is massively weakened.
For this reason, Kaposi’s sarcoma occurs particularly frequently in people who have been infected with the HI virus or who have already developed the immune deficiency disease AIDS due to an HIV infection and were therefore able to become infected with the human herpesvirus type 8.
In addition to HIV or AIDS, other causes of Kaposi’s sarcoma are also conceivable. People who have an organ transplant are treated with immunosuppressants so that their own immune system does not perceive the new organ as a foreign body and consequently rejects it. For this reason, Kaposi’s sarcomas often occur in transplant patients.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Depending on its cause, Kaposi’s sarcoma can produce different symptoms and symptoms. In the classic form, light red, small patches develop on the skin and mucous membranes, which over time turn a brown-red to bluish color and develop into nodules. In the last stage, the nodules become encrusted, combined with severe itching.
Ulcers can form from the nodules, which pose an increased risk of infection. Accordingly, severe infections and skin changes often occur during the course of the disease. If the nodules are not treated, scars can remain. Permanent sensory disturbances and signs of paralysis are also conceivable.
The nodules can be the size of a pin or the palm of your hand and, in extreme cases, can spread to the internal organs. This can result in life-threatening internal bleeding. Spread to the internal organs can cause other symptoms, such as jaundice, liver problems, inflammation and sepsis.
If Kaposi’s sarcoma occurs as part of an HIV infection, the symptoms quickly increase in intensity and cause the affected person to feel very unwell. The nodules are accompanied by general symptoms such as fever, exhaustion and fatigue. Kaposi’s sarcoma usually takes a severe course and significantly reduces the quality of life of those affected.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis can be made via the clinical picture, i.e. via visual features, i.e. via the visible abnormalities typical of Kaposi’s sarcoma. These are brown-red to bluish spots that form on the skin and can range in size from a pinhead to the palm of a hand.
A histological specimen can also be used to confirm the diagnosis. This is a sample of tissue that is taken from the patient and then examined under a microscope. In order to distinguish whether Kaposi’s sarcoma is the classic form or the form that occurs in connection with the HI virus, blood tests are also carried out to determine an infection with HIV.
As the disease progresses, the patches develop into painful lumps and ulcers. The mucous membranes in the mouth, intestines or genital area are particularly affected. In AIDS patients, spots often appear in high concentrations on the arms and legs. Without appropriate treatment measures, the spots and tumors continue to spread. This often leads to metastases in the lymph nodes but also in other organs.
In patients who are not infected with the HI virus, the lymphatic vessels can also be directly affected, from where the disease then spreads to the internal organs. In transplant patients, on the other hand, there are no external abnormalities in the case of a disease with Kaposi’s sarcoma. Instead, the internal organs are affected directly.
Kaposi’s sarcoma usually leads to the formation of a tumor. For this reason, the usual symptoms of a tumor disease occur with this disease. In the worst case, this can even lead to the death of the patient. Those affected primarily suffer from spots and lumps on the skin. These can be blue or purple and often lead to reduced self-esteem or inferiority complexes.
There are also various complaints in the stomach and intestines, with most patients also suffering from water retention. It is not uncommon for bleeding to occur on the skin, which cannot be stopped easily. The tumor can also spread to other regions of the body and infect healthy tissue there. This may reduce the patient’s life expectancy.
Treatment is usually with medication and surgery. This can lead to complications if the patient’s immune system is already weakened by another disease. Under certain circumstances, the life expectancy of those affected is then reduced by Kaposi’s sarcoma.
When should you go to the doctor?
If the typical symptoms of Kaposi’s syndrome are noticed, a doctor should be consulted on the same day. Warning signs such as skin changes or gastrointestinal complaints require rapid clarification by a doctor in order to avoid complications. If ulcers or lumps have already formed from the spots, the person concerned must consult a doctor immediately. Patients who suffer from the symptoms mentioned in connection with a disease of the immune system are best advised to inform the doctor responsible. HIV and AIDS patients also belong to the risk groups and should have the warning signs clarified immediately.
If Karposi’s syndrome is not recognized, serious complications can arise. In the worst case, the metastases spread to other organs. Therefore, Karposi’s syndrome must be diagnosed and treated quickly. People who notice signs of illness should see their family doctor. Other contacts are the dermatologist or an internist. Patients whose symptoms are related to another medical condition should speak to their doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
Since Kaposi’s sarcoma often occurs in patients whose immune systems are already severely compromised, measures that do not further weaken the immune system must be taken when treating Kaposi’s sarcoma.
For this reason, the so-called antiviral combination therapy, which is also used to treat the HI virus, is usually used in HIV and AIDS patients to treat Kaposi’s sarcoma. The patients receive three different antiretroviral drugs, which are also abbreviated as ARV. The antiretroviral agents cause the symptoms of Kaposi’s sarcoma to continuously recede.
Care must also be taken in transplant patients to ensure that the immune system is not further weakened. A change in immunosuppressants often leads to the regression of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
In addition, other therapy methods are often used to treat Kaposi’s sarcoma, depending on the patient. Laser or radiation treatments as well as excisions or other physical therapies can also help locally in the early stages. In some cases, a successful treatment of Kaposi’s sarcoma also requires the use of chemotherapy.
Outlook & Forecast
In the case of Kaposi’s sarloma, the person affected can support the medical treatment with a large number of measures they carry out themselves. The priority here is to relieve the weakened immune system and reduce the effects of symptoms.
For this purpose, it is primarily important to avoid physically strenuous activities and rather to ensure rest or possibly even bed rest. The avoidance of any stress is also absolutely essential, as this would additionally weaken the body and the immune system. On the other hand, it is helpful to change your diet in consultation with the doctor treating you and a nutritionist. It not only supports the immune system, but also has a preventive effect against symptoms such as water retention and can provide relief in a simple way.
Depending on the individual symptoms, further measures can be taken. Various homeopathic ointments with ingredients such as calendula, belladonna, arnica or chamomile, which can be applied additionally in consultation with the doctor treating you, help with skin changes. Regular breathing training can help to prevent further cyanosis and thus an undersupply of oxygen. Depending on medical advice, this can be done with or without a breathing trainer from the medical supply store and helps to breathe sufficiently deeply and calmly. In addition, it has a stress-reducing, anxiolytic and relaxing effect on the body, which allows it to regenerate faster.
To prevent the classic form of Kaposi’s sarcoma, preventive vaccination against oncogenic viruses, including human herpesvirus type 8, is recommended.
In most cases, patients with Kaposi’s sarcoma have no special or direct options for aftercare, so that those affected by this disease are primarily dependent on a quick diagnosis and also on quick treatment. The earlier Kaposi’s sarcoma is recognized and treated, the better the further course of this disease.
In most cases, Kaposi’s sarcoma is treated by taking medication. Affected people depend on regular intake and also on the right dosage in order to relieve the symptoms properly and, above all, permanently. In the case of children, the parents must control the correct intake.
Furthermore, most patients are dependent on the help and support of family and friends, which can also prevent psychological upsets or depression. In the case of chemotherapy, loving conversations with close friends or with one’s own family also have a positive effect on the course of Kaposi’s sarcoma. This disease may lead to a reduced life expectancy for those affected if Kaposi’s sarcoma is not recognized until late.
You can do that yourself
If Kaposi’s syndrome has been diagnosed, medical treatment is required in any case. The affected person can support the medical therapy with a number of self-help measures and resources from the home and nature.
The most important thing is a lifestyle change. The already weakened immune system must not be further burdened, which is why strenuous physical activities should be avoided. A healthy and balanced diet strengthens the immune system and can prevent individual symptoms such as water retention or skin bleeding. Avoiding stress is also important. If Kaposi’s syndrome occurs after a transplant, the doctor’s instructions must be followed. In principle, rest and bed rest are indicated, supported by regular check-ups by a doctor.
Further self-help measures depend on the symptoms. In some circumstances, cyanosis can be prevented by breathing training. Homeopathic ointments and creams, such as marigold ointment or preparations containing chamomile, belladonna or arnica, help against skin changes. If these measures have no effect, the doctor must be consulted. In order to avoid a new outbreak of Kaposi’s syndrome, vaccination against oncogenic viruses should also take place.