Kaposi's Sarcoma, a type of cancer most often associated with HIV/AIDS and other immune system deficiencies, can be devastating. The disease primarily affects your skin, lymph nodes, and lower extremities (including your feet), although it can also affect your lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.
Characterized by skin lesions, swelling of the feet and legs, and additional symptoms, Kaposi's Sarcoma can cause significant pain, a decreased quality of life, and emotional trauma. With treatment from a skilled doctor, the disease and its symptoms can be managed.
Causes of Kaposi's Sarcoma
Kaposi's Sarcoma is caused by a herpes virus (the Human Herpes Virus 8, or HHV-8) spread through sexual contact. Although not everyone who has HHV-8 develops Kaposi's Sarcoma, HHV-8 sufferers with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop the cancer. Therefore, HIV, AIDS, and other immune system deficiencies are significant risk factors for developing Kaposi's Sarcoma.
Symptoms of Kaposi's Sarcoma
The symptoms of Kaposi's Sarcoma include:
- Painless skin lesions - Plaques; nodular growths; or red, purple, blue, brown, or black spots may develop, and over time, the lesions typically enlarge.
- Severe swelling in the feet, legs, arms, and face - This swelling may cause difficulty walking, eating, and/or swallowing.
- Lesions in the gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, and other organs - These growths may cause internal bleeding and blockages, resulting in nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain. The lesions also may lead to the development of secondary malignancies, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Treatment of Kaposi's Sarcoma
Although Kaposi's Sarcoma is not curable, early medical intervention can manage the symptoms of the disease and potentially slow its progression. Typically, treatments include:
- Antiretroviral therapy for patients with HIV/AIDS.
- Cosmetic skin treatments to remove or lighten skin lesions.
- Podiatric treatments to restore or improve functioning of the feet and legs.
- Systemic chemotherapy to treat lesions that have spread to the organs.
If you have been diagnosed with Kaposi's Sarcoma or are experiencing symptoms of the disease, contact your doctor right away to obtain the treatment you need. With proper care by an experienced healthcare provider, your disease can be managed effectively.