Neurosyphilis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It usually occurs in people who have had untreated syphilis for many years, usually about 10 - 20 years after first infection.[1]


Symptoms and signs

Symptoms of neurosyphilis include:[1]

  • Abnormal gait
  • Blindness
  • Confusion
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Incontinence
  • Irritability
  • Numbness in the toes, feet, or legs
  • Poor concentration
  • Seizures
  • Neck stiffness
  • Tremors
  • Retardation
  • Visual disturbances. There may be the sign of Argyll Robertson pupils, which are bilateral small pupils that constrict when the patient focuses on a near object, but do not constrict when exposed to bright light.
  • Muscle weakness

Upon further diagnostic workup, the following signs may be present:

  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle contractions


In addition to evaluation of any symptoms and signs, various blood tests can be done:[1]

Also, it is important to test the cerebrospinal fluid for signs of syphilis.[1]

Additional tests to look for problems with the nervous system may include:[1]

  • Cerebral angiogram
  • Head CT scan
  • Lumbar puncture ("spinal tap") to acquire a sample for cerebrospinal fluid analysis
  • MRI scan of the brain, brainstem, or spinal cord


Penicillin is used to treat neurosyphilis. Two examples of penicillin therapies include:[1]

Follow-up blood tests are generally performed at 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months to make sure the infection is gone.[1] Lumbar punctures for CSF fluid analysis are generally performed every 6 months.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Neurosyphilis at PubMed Health. Review Date: 9/15/2010. Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, Jatin M. Vyas. Also reviewed by David Zieve

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • neurosyphilis — [nøʀosifilis] n. f. ÉTYM. D. i.; de neuro , et syphilis. ❖ ♦ Méd. Atteinte nerveuse due à la syphilis. ⇒ Paralysie (générale), tabès …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Neurosyphilis — Klassifikation nach ICD 10 A52.1 Floride Neurosyphilis A52.2 Asymptomatische Neurosyphilis A52.3 Neurosyphilis, n …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Neurosyphilis —    The syphilitic infiltration of the central nervous system, though today belonging to internal medicine or neurology, was once treated by psychiatrists. The patients themselves frequently landed in asylums because the illness first becomes… …   Historical dictionary of Psychiatry

  • Neurosyphilis — La neurosyphilis est le nom donné à l atteinte neurologique tardive de la syphilis, à ses stades tertiaire et quaternaire. Les deux manifestations principales en sont : la paralysie générale qui réalise un tableau clinique de méningo… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Neurosyphilis — Neurological complications in the third (tertiary) and final phase of syphilis, which involve the central nervous system and can include psychosis, pain, and loss of physical control over a variety of bodily functions. * * * Infection of the… …   Medical dictionary

  • neurosyphilis — noun A syphilis infection affecting the nervous system …   Wiktionary

  • Neurosyphilis — Neu|ro|sy̲|philis [↑neuro... u. ↑Syphilis] w; : allg. Bezeichnung für syphilitische Prozesse im Nervensystem …   Das Wörterbuch medizinischer Fachausdrücke

  • Neurosyphilis — Neu|ro|sy|phi|lis [auch nɔyro...] die; : allg. Bez. für syphilitische Prozesse im Nervensystem (Med.) …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • neurosyphilis — n. syphilis of the nerves (Pathology) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • neurosyphilis — neu·ro·syphilis …   English syllables

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