As AIDS became more prevalent, doctors became more aware of the appearance of Kaposi's sarcoma lesions. Sometimes, the appearance of the lesions is the first clue that the person may have advanced HIV infection.
Kaposi's sarcoma can appear as bluish-red, brown, or purple spots or lesions on the skin, which can be flat or slightly raised. The lesions can develop anywhere on the body but are most often found on the face (especially the ears, mouth, and tip of the nose), legs and feet, and genital area. For those with dark-coloured skin, the lesions may appear dark brown or black. The lesions generally aren't itchy or painful.
Kaposi's sarcoma may also appear as lesions on the palate (roof of the mouth), tongue, gums, or tonsils, or as gastrointestinal (stomach or intestine) lesions that bleed. There may also be lesions on the lungs, which may look like an infection or other forms of lung cancer.
Other symptoms connected with Kaposi's sarcoma include:
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- blood in the sputum
- swollen lymph nodes
Kaposi's sarcoma can recur easily, despite treatment and remission. It can also affect the lungs and liver.
If the lesions remain isolated on the skin, Kaposi's sarcoma isn't a life-threatening illness. If, however, it attacks the inner organs, including the lungs, brain, and gastrointestinal tract, Kaposi's sarcoma can be fatal.
The appearance of Kaposi's sarcoma in a person with AIDS is often a sign that the disease is progressing. On the other hand, as the HIV infection is successfully treated and immune function is restored, the Kaposi’s sarcoma will often start to go away.