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Alternative Names Return to topSyphilitic 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:
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.