Topic Overview

Neurosyphilis refers to the infection of the brain and spinal cord by
the
syphilis bacteria. This can lead to destruction in
many areas of the
nervous system, causing loss of function of a person’s
arms or legs, loss of vision, and altered mental abilities. Neurosyphilis can
affect many different body systems and may develop over an extended period of
time. Symptoms of neurosyphilis usually include:

  • Personality changes, such as confusion and
    irritability.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Vision problems.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.
  • Memory
    loss.
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
    speech.
  • Tremor of the fingers and lips.
  • Mild
    headaches.
  • Disorderly appearance.

Other symptoms may include:

  • A wide gait.
  • Numbness or tingling of
    the hands or feet.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Joint destruction
    because of lack of sensation (Charcot’s joint).
  • Inability to
    control urine or stool (urinary or fecal incontinence).

Most forms of neurosyphilis take years to develop and can be
life-threatening. People who are also infected with human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tend to develop signs of
neurosyphilis sooner.

Antibiotic treatment cures the syphilis infection and
stops the progress of neurosyphilis. But the damage that has already occurred
may not be reversed.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kevin C. Kiley, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017