Jaundice, occurring as a rare complication in the onset or early secondary period of syphilis, was first recognized by Paracelsus in 1585. It is also mentioned by Portal, Massa, Monti, Batallus, Fallopio and other writers of the latter part of the sixteenth century, in accordance with an early belief that the liver was the site of election for venereal disease. At a later date Ricord1 recorded icterus in two cases of early syphilis and ventured the statement that syphilis was the cause of the jaundice. In 1853 Gubler2 substantiated the work of Ricord with a report of seven cases, three of which he collected from the literature, and by clinical observation proved the jaundice to be syphilitic. Subsequently Lancereaux3 collected reports of twenty cases of syphilitic icterus.
Jaundice in early syphilis is now recognized as occurring in two forms, mild jaundice and severe jaundice, or icterus gravis.
UDO J. WILE, ROLLA G. KARSHNER. ICTERUS GRAVIS SYPHILITICUSITS RELATION TO ACUTE YELLOW ATROPHY. JAMA. 1917;LXVIII(18):1311–1314. doi:10.1001/jama.1917.04270050013005