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BACKGROUND: The incidence of new infection with syphilis is increasing, particularly in men who have sex with men, with HIV co-infection common. There has been a corresponding increase in ophthalmic manifestations that can be varied in presentation. METHODS: Thirteen consecutive patients with syphilitic uveitis presenting to two ophthalmic departments in Sydney are described. RESULTS: Twelve patients were male, of whom 10 were homosexual and six HIV-positive. Peripheral retinitis with panuveitis was the commonest ophthalmic presentation (n = 7, 54%), and six cases were initially treated with vitreous tap and intravitreal foscarnet as a precaution in case of viral retinitis. Retinitis was present in six of six (100%) HIV-positive and only one of seven (14%) HIV-negative patients (χ² 10.6, P < 0.01). Other ophthalmic presentations included anterior uveitis, vitritis, multifocal choroiditis, scleritis and papillitis. All patients responded to 10-14 days' intravenous penicillin with good final visual outcomes (6/12 or better in all eyes). CONCLUSIONS: This case series reinforces the importance of considering syphilis in the differential diagnosis of many ocular presentations, but in particular retinitis. Retinitis appears to be the predominant presentation in HIV-infected individuals, suggesting that HIV infection may somehow modulate the disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Exp Ophthalmol

Publication Date





851 - 856


Adult, Diagnosis, Differential, Female, HIV Infections, Humans, Incidence, Male, Middle Aged, Penicillins, Retinitis, Retrospective Studies, Syphilis, Uveitis