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Reminder of important clinical lesson
Syphilis mimicking idiopathic intracranial hypertension

Summary

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) is a condition of yet unknown aetiology affecting predominantly obese females of childbearing age. IIH is a diagnosis of exclusion as raised cerebrospinal fluid pressure may occur secondary to numerous other medical conditions. An atypical phenotype or an atypical disease course should alert the physician to reevaluate a presumed IIH-diagnosis. The authors report a case of a 32-year-old non-obese male with intracranial hypertension, secondary to a syphilitic central nervous system infection, initially misdiagnosed as being idiopathic. Upon relevant antibiotic treatment, signs and symptoms of elevated intracranial pressure resolved completely. Syphilis is a rare, but very important, differential diagnosis that in this case was clinically indistinguishable from IIH.

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