Clinical manifestations and treatment outcomes of syphilitic uveitis in HIV-negative patients in China: A retrospective case study

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Abstract

Syphilitic chorioretinitis should be included in differential diagnosis of any form of ocular inflammation. A significantly higher proportion of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive patients with ocular syphilis as compared to HIV-negative cases have been reported in published studies. However, the clinical signs and symptoms are more insidious in HIV-negative patients who are easily misdiagnosed. We report a series of cases of ocular syphilis and describe the clinical manifestations and treatment outcomes of syphilitic chorioretinitis in HIV-negative patients in China.

This was a retrospective case series study. The clinical records of patients with syphilis chorioretinitis were reviewed. Demographic information and findings of fundus fluorescein angiography (FFA), indocyanine green angiography (ICGA), and spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) were analyzed. All patients received the standard treatment. Ophthalmology examination and laboratory evaluation were repeated every 3 months. All changes were recorded. The treatment was considered successful if the patients had no inflammation in both eyes and rapid plasma reagin titer was negative after therapy.

The study examined 41 eyes of 28 HIV-negative patients. The main complaints were blurry vision, floaters, and visual field defect. Twenty-seven eyes presented with panuveitis, and all had posterior involvement, including uveitis, vasculitis, chorioretinitis, and optic neuritis. The most common manifestations were uveitis and retinal vasculitis. Disc hyperfluorescence and persistent dark spots were the most common findings on FFA and ICGA. The ill-defined inner segment/outer segment junction was the most frequent manifestation on SD-OCT. Patients were diagnosed with syphilitic uveitis based on positive serological tests. Best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) was improved in 34 eyes after treatment. Eleven patients were misdiagnosed before serological tests were performed. The delay in treatment led to long-standing cystoid macular edema and optic neuropathy, which were associated with poor BCVA (P = .037).

The common manifestations of syphilitic chorioretinitis were uveitis, retinal vasculitis, and optic neuritis. Further diagnosis should be prompted by FFA, ICGA, and SD-OCT when ocular manifestation is suspected. The standard treatment for neurosyphilis was effective. If patients are presumed to be in low-risk groups such as HIV-negative, delays in diagnosis, and therapy may be likely. It is necessary to reiterate the importance of including syphilis uveitis as a differential diagnosis for any form of ocular inflammations, especially posterior uveitis and optic neuropathy.

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