Article Text

Unusual presentation of more common disease/injury
Syphilis presenting with headache and papilloedema
  1. Sarah Cooper1,
  2. Saif Razvi1,
  3. Ali Alani2,
  4. Andrew Winter3,
  5. Ben Browne2,
  6. Richard Metcalfe1
  1. 1
    Institute of Neurological Sciences, Southern General Hospital, 1345 Govan Road, Glasgow G51 4TF, UK
  2. 2
    Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 84 Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0SF, UK
  3. 3
    The Sandyford Initiative, 2-6 Sanyford Place, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G3 7NB, UK
  1. Sarah Cooper, sarah.cooper{at}


A 41-year-old homosexual man presented with a 10-week history of headache without pressure features commencing 10 weeks after a new sexual contact. Three days after the headache onset he noticed intermittent, bilateral visual blurring, worse in the right eye. The visual disturbance persisted intermittently and led to his referral to a local ophthalmology department where he was found to have bilateral papilloedema. There were no other abnormal signs on full examination of other systems and no other abnormal ocular findings. Cerebral imaging studies were normal. A lumbar puncture revealed a raised opening pressure of 35 mm cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with a white cell count of 58 cells/mcl (mainly lymphocytes). Venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL), Treponema pallidum haemagglutination (TPHA) and Inno-LIA tests confirmed the presence of neurosyphilis. HIV testing was negative. He was treated with CSF pressure reduction via repeat lumbar puncture and acetozolamide and procaine penicillin intramuscularly. He recovered and remains symptom free at 1 year.

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  • Competing interests: none.

  • Patient consent: Patient/guardian consent was obtained for publication.

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