How Does Syphilis Affect the Eyes?

by Aug 2, 2021

Syphilis is an infectious disease that affects several parts of the body and can remain in the body for years if not treated appropriately.


Syphilis Infections

Syphilis is caused by a bacteria known as Treponema pallidum which is only transmitted by humans. Common transmission is either by close sexual contact or through the placenta during birth.

There is little to no risk of transmission beyond the sexual contact.

Once infected, an individual may be asymptomatic as there is an incubation period of up to several months.


Symptoms of Syphilis

If an individual presents with symptoms, there may be sores on the skin or mucus membranes. If the symptoms progress and are more advanced, the blood and nervous system may become involved.

Treatment is available and often prevents the disease from progressing to more severe symptoms.


Syphilis Symptoms in the Eyes

Syphilis may create an inflammatory reaction within the eyes. As the infection creates more inflammation numerous symptoms may occur.

Signs such as red eyes, sensitivity to light, eye pain, and decreased vision may occur.


Syphilis and Red Eyes

Syphilis can cause the front of the eye to become irritated and inflamed. This inflammation may create redness in the white part of the eyes.

Typically, if the eye is red and irritated, there is another cause more likely than syphilis but if there is already a known diagnosis of syphilis it may be the cause of the redness.


Ligt Sensivity and Syphilis

As syphilis infects the eyes, it may cause extreme sensitivity to light known as photophobia. The light sensitivity is due to the inflammation of the ciliary muscle, inflammation of the retina, or inflammation of the iris.

When a structure becomes inflamed, it is sensitive to movement and swelling.

The ciliary muscle moves when the eye is exposed to light to constrict the iris. Since the syphilis can cause inflammation of the ciliary muscle or the iris, this constriction causes pain.

The pain when exposed to bright lights is significantly more than that is normally experienced.


Eye Pain Caused by Syphilis

The majority of eye pain that is associated with syphilis is due to light sensitivity. However, other sources of eye pain can be the cornea or the muscles of the eye.

If the cornea becomes affected by the inflammation along with syphilis, it can cause a sharp pain on the front of the eyes.

If the eye socket is swollen to a large degree, the eye muscles may cause pain when the eye moves because the inflamed eye socket causes the muscles to press against the bones of the eye socket.


Syphillis Can Cause Poor Vision

Vision changes are not often a direct consequence of syphilis but are the result of the changes caused by syphilis.

Since syphilis causes inflammation throughout the body and eyes, the swelling can cause a decrease in vision.


What is the Treatment for Syphilis?

Syphilis is commonly treated by antibiotics in the hospital using IV injections. With the appropriate treatments, the likelihood of progression to a more severe state of the disease is very uncommon.

If the eyes are involved with symptoms of syphilis, it is possible to treat the symptoms of the inflammation separate from the antibiotic treatment.


Our optometrist at Eye Contact in Acworth, GA excels in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrist at (770) 529-1925 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about syphilis’s affect on the eyes. Our eye doctor, Dr. Wes Mobley provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Acworth, Georgia and its surrounding areas.

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