Neurosyphilis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord. It occurs in persons with untreated syphilis many years after they are first infected.
Neurosyphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that cause syphillis. It occurs about 10 - 20 years after a person is first infected with syphilis. Not everyone who has syphilis will develop this complication.
There are four different forms of neurosyphilis:
Asymptomatic neurosyphilis occurs before symptomatic syphilis.
Note: There may be no symptoms
Blood tests can be done to detect substances produced by the bacteria that cause syphilis. The oldest test is the VDRL test.
Other tests include:
In neurosyphilis, it is important to test the spinal fluid for signs of syphilis.
Tests to look for problems with the nervous system may include:
Penicillin is used to treat neurosyphilis. The medicine may be given in various ways.
You must have follow-up blood tests and lumbar punctures for CSF fluid analysis at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months to make sure the infection is gone.
For information on treating syphilis, see the following articles:
This is considered a life-threatening complication of syphilis. How well you do depends on how severe the neurosyphilis is before treatment.
The symptoms can get slowly worse.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have had syphilis in the past and now have signs of neurological problems.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of the original syphilis infection can prevent neurosyphilis.