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Stroke secondary to syphilis

Contents of this page:


Central nervous system
Central nervous system

Alternative Names    Return to top

Syphilitic stroke

Definition    Return to top

Stroke is life-threatening complication of a long-term syphilis infection.

Causes    Return to top

Untreated, late-stage tertiary syphilis can cause inflammation and blockage of the arteries that supply the brain. A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to any part of the brain. Stroke can lead to brain tissue damage.

Symptoms    Return to top

The following symptoms may occur about 1-4 weeks before the stroke:

Symptoms of stroke include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The doctor will ask if you have a history of syphilis. Blood tests can be done to check for substances in the blood produced by the bacteria that causes syphilis. These include:

If tests are positive, other tests are done to confirm the diagnosis. A spinal tap may be done to check for syphilis-related substances in the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid).

The following tests may be used to determine the location and severity of the stroke:

Treatment    Return to top

For stroke treatment, see the article on stroke.

Antibiotics are used in high doses to treat the syphilis infection. Pain killers may be needed to control severe headaches.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome depends on the extent of damage to the brain, the presence of other complications of late syphilis, and other factors.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have any symptoms of a stroke.

Prevention    Return to top

Stroke secondary to syphilis may be prevented by receiving prompt treatment and follow-up care for syphilis.

References    Return to top

Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 2005.

Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2004.

Update Date: 3/5/2007

Updated by: Daniel Kantor, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive MS Center, Neuroscience Institute, University of Florida Health Science Center, Jacksonville, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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