A team of international researchers is warning health officials that more and more individuals in advanced civilizations are in danger of losing their eyesight due to syphilis.
rates of syphilis in many countries have been steadily rising over
the last few years. The CDC said, in the U.S, it doubled from 2.1
cases for every 100,000 people in 2000 to 2013’s 5.3 cases for
every 100,000 people.
reports have shown that there has been an increase in the number of
ocular syphilis cases. Ocular syphilis is an inflammatory eye disease
that causes redness, blurry vision, partial blindness or complete
blindness if left untreated.
University of Sao Paulo and Flinders University researchers looked at
four Brazil medical centers for over two years and found that ocular
syphilis cases had risen eight times in a 10-year period.
team found that in 127 patients with ocular syphilis, 87 of them had
the disease in both eyes. Many of them had suffered serious
complications such as retinal detachment, which happens when the thin
layer behind the eye is loose. Over half the patients lost their
vision under levels that allowed them to drive.
said the Brazil findings are a reflection of the disease’s
co-author Joao Marcello Furtado from the University of Sao Paulo said
ocular syphilis was rarely diagnosed during the 1990s and early
2000s, attributing to just two percent of all eye inflammation cases.
Today, he said, reports show that nearly ocular syphilis is prevalent
in the U.S., Europe and areas of Australia. Thus, Furtado said, the
problem isn’t just limited to Brazil.
is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria that usually go
unnoticed as most of its symptoms mimic other conditions. Such
symptoms include skin rash, headache and sore throat. It’s the same
problem for ocular syphilis, which is why many people didn’t see
their doctor for several months until after the problem presented
itself in later stages.
problem is that many doctors are not used to seeing symptoms of
syphilis, and the disease is being overlooked or mistreated.
co-author Justine Smith from Flinders’ College of Medicine and
Public Health said when ocular syphilis isn’t treated quickly, it
can cause damage to the eye’s inner components and lead to
permanent damage. Early treatment, however, can reverse the damage.
their findings, researchers are urging doctors who have syphilis
patients complaining of eye problems to an ophthalmologist.
said the syphilis stigma is less, but early detection is a necessity
for anyone exposed and diagnosed with the disease.