WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- An Australian man who suffered from headaches and pain in his eyes was diagnosed with syphilis that had affected his nervous system.
- The 39-year-old man admitted to having regular unprotected sex with different male partners.
- If not treated, syphilis can spread all over the body, including the brain.
A man in Australia who suffered from headaches and pain in his eyes was diagnosed with the sexually transmitted infection (STI) syphilis, that had also affected his nervous system, according to a case study published in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
The 39-year-old man’s vision was normal but when he moved his eyes the pain got worse and had experienced headaches for three weeks.
Scans didn’t show anything unusual but tests revealed he had swelling in his optic nerves, according to paper author Dr. Jason Yosar of the Ophthalmology department at Sydney Eye Hospital, Australia.
The unidentified man’s blood test revealed the antibodies for the bacteria that causes syphilis was present in his blood.
After being given antibiotics through a drip for two weeks, the swelling in his right optic nerve had reduced within a month but the swelling in the left had worsened. Fortunately, his vision was unaffected and he no longer had symptoms or signs of nerve problems in his eye.
The patient was diagnosed with neurosyphilis, which affects the nervous system.
Syphilis is split into four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Neurosyphilis can develop at any of these stages, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include a severe headache, problems with coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, and problems with memory and thinking known as dementia.
Syphilis, as an STD, is spread when a person comes into contact with a sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The sores can develop on or around the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, on the lips and inside the mouth. A pregnant woman can also pass syphilis on to her baby.
The patient admitted to having an open relationship and had casual unprotected sex with several male partners, the Mail Online reported citing the case report. This is thought to be the second case recorded in medical literature where both a patient’s eyes were affected but they didn’t also have HIV.
In the United States, syphilis was almost eliminated, but cases are growing, particularly among among men who have sex with men. Cases increased by 14.4 percent between 2017 and 2018 to 35,063 primary and secondary cases, with 64 percent among men who have sex with men.
The CDC recommends using latex condoms correctly when having sex to avoid catching STDs like syphillis.