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southampton: Many cases of eye-related ‘Ocular Syphilis’ infection have been reported in Michigan, America. Five women contracted the infection from the same sexual partner. ‘Ocular syphilis’ is not that common overall, although with ‘ocular syphilis’ accounting for one percent of all cases of infection, its prevalence is probably underestimated.
‘Ocular syphilis’ spreads very rapidly. It has many forms and perhaps that is why it is difficult to detect. Although it can be treated easily. If ‘ocular syphilis’ is not treated, it can progress for years, causing damage to various organs. If it is not treated, it can take the form of tragedy. It can affect almost every tissue of the eye, including the cornea, iris, orbit, eyelids, retina, optic nerve, and sclera. This usually appears as swelling, but sometimes the infection is very subtle.
If syphilis is left untreated, other important treatable infections may also be left untreated. For example, HIV infection is also common in patients with syphilis. Due to HIV infection, ‘ocular syphilis’ can progress rapidly. Undiagnosed ocular syphilis may also mean undiagnosed HIV, a treatable disease. The five Michigan women initially mentioned were infected by the same man.
These women showed varying symptoms, ranging from swelling in the eyes to paralysis of the cranial nerves. In these severe cases, thankfully, the disease was identified promptly and appropriately treated. But sometimes ‘ocular syphilis’ is not diagnosed and can lead to a gradual infection of the retina. This could be an inherited infection called ‘retinitis pigmentosa’. In such a situation, patients may be told that they are suffering from a genetic disease, nothing can be done about it and their eyesight may deteriorate. This can increase syphilis related problems in them and can also affect their brain.
However, it is not that it cannot be treated. During my practice as a doctor, I have cured many patients of ‘Retinitis Pigmentosa’ whose treatment was not considered possible. I investigated and found that the patient actually had ocular syphilis. Syphilis is caused by a bacterium called ‘Treponema pallidum’. It is considered a chronic disease. Christopher Columbus probably gave information about it in Europe in 1493, but it is still very popular today.
Syphilis infection cases in the UK increased to 8,692 in 2022, 15% more than in 2021 (7,543). This is the highest number of infection cases reported since 1948. Clinicians should not hesitate to investigate and explain to patients why testing is necessary. In my experience, patients are happy to have the test because it can help diagnose their eye condition.
These cases in Michigan send a message that syphilis is on the rise as a sexually transmitted disease. It can affect many organs including the eyes. It should be treated. Physicians should consider this disease and should not hesitate in investigating it. If detected, it can be treated immediately with ‘antibiotics’, whereas this is not the case with many other eye diseases. (agency)
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