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April 1997

Syphilitic Uveitis in Human Immunodeficiency Virus—Infected Patients

Arch Ophthalmol. 1997;115(4):469-473. doi:10.1001/archopht.1997.01100150471003

Objective:  To document the incidence and clinical features of syphilitic uveitis in patients coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Design:  Retrospective chart review.

Setting:  Single tertiary uveitis referral center.

Patients:  The charts of HIV-infected patients with uveitis and a reactive fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption test seen between November 1983 and June 1995 were reviewed.

Results:  Syphilis was the most common bacterial cause of uveitis in this group. Thirteen patients (0.6% of the 2085 HIV-positive patients seen in the clinic during the study period) were dually infected. Twelve patients were male. Six patients (46%) had previously been treated for syphilis, 4 with intramuscular penicillin G benzathine only. Four patients (31%) had isolated anterior uveitis, 3 patients (23%) had anterior and intermediate uveitis, and 5 patients (38%) had panuveitis. One patient (8%) presented with optic nerve and retinal atrophy. Eight patients were treated with intravenous penicillin, 3 with intravenous and intramuscular penicillin, and 1 with intravenous ceftriaxone sodium. Of the 12 patients for whom follow-up examinations were available after treatment, ocular inflammation decreased in 11 (92%) and visual acuity improved in 8 (67%). Rapid plasma reagin titers decreased a median of 64-fold compared with pretreatment levels, and all patients with reactive cerebrospinal fluid who underwent pretreatment and posttreatment lumbar punctures normalized following therapy with intravenous antibiotics.

Conclusions:  Syphilis is an uncommon cause of uveitis in HIV-infected patients. Anterior uveitis is the most common ocular manifestation, but panuveitis is more common than isolated anterior uveitis. Intravenous penicillin is effective therapy.