Syphilitic uveitis in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients

Arch Ophthalmol. 1997 Apr;115(4):469-73. 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.

Settings: 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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Penicillins / therapeutic use
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syphilis / complications*
  • Syphilis / drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uveitis / microbiology*
  • Uveitis / physiopathology
  • Visual Acuity


  • Penicillins