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May 1956

An Appreciation of Wassermann in Relation to Ocular Syphilis

AMA Arch Derm. 1956;73(5):464-468. doi:10.1001/archderm.1956.01550050042005

Gay and careless and chirping like a little bird she flutters onward into a life of endless night.1

Hedwig in Ibsen, "The Wild Duck"

Statistical studies of the causes of blindness attribute 10% to 15% to syphilis. Hurlin2 estimates the rate of blindness per 1000 of population in the United States as 1.7. He concluded that about 230,000 was a reasonable estimate of the total number of blind persons in the United States in 1940. On the basis of these figures it can be deduced that there are 23,000 to 34,500 syphilitic blind in the United States.*

Primary optic nerve atrophy of acquired syphilis is the outstanding cause of blindness in relation to syphilis. From experience in the clinic for ocular syphilis at Wills Eye Hospital3 I would estimate that 90% of

blindness and industrial blindness caused by syphilis can be attributed to optic nerve atrophy

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