What is Ocular Syphilis

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Syphilis cases are on the rise in the U.S.  The Centers for Disease Control reports a 40 percent increase in cases from 2010 to 2014.  Cases in Colorado have also risen.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment states cases of syphilis increased 56 percent from January 1 to July 31, 2015 compared to the same time period in 2014.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to serious complications if not treated.  Syphilis has been named "The Great Pretender" because it mimics many other medical conditions.  It can be hard to diagnosis and symptoms can be subtle.  However when diagnosed early it is easily treated with antibiotics.

Syphilis typically progresses in three stages: primary, secondary, and late or tertiary. The primary phase presents with a painless raised ulcer located on the genitals, rectum, or mouth.  The secondary phase progresses to a rash located on the limbs and trunks, swollen lymph nodes, fever, sore throat, and weight loss.  The tertiary phase occurs in 15-30 % of people not treated.  It can affect the brain, spinal chord, heart, and bones.

Neurosyphilis is a serious complication that can occur during any phase of the illness.  Neurosyphilis is an infection of the spinal chord and brain.  A form of neurosyphilis is ocular syphilis.  If left untreated ocular syphilis can lead to blindness.

Pregnant women can pass the infection on to their baby.  Congenital syphilis can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.  All pregnant women should be screened for syphilis during the first trimester.

Syphilis is preventable and easily treatable.  The CDC recommends wearing a condom,  speak with your health care provider to see if screening is recommended, seek immediate medical care if you develop any signs or symptoms of syphilis, and notify all sexual partners of a positive test.  Condoms help prevent transmission of syphilis however if a sore is located in an area not covered by the condom syphilis can still be transmitted.

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