Syphilis can invade other parts of the body, causing serious complications. Dr. Alvarado, can you tell us about some potential complications of syphilis?
Absolutely, Dr. Mayzik. It's possible for a syphilis infection to spread to the nervous system at any stage of the disease. This invasion of the nervous system is called neurosyphilis, and it can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Altered behavior
- Difficulty coordinating muscle movements
- Problems with the senses, and
Syphilis can also spread to the eyes at any stage. This is called ocular syphilis. Symptoms of ocular syphilis can include:
- Vision changes
- Decreased visual acuity, and
- Permanent blindness
Untreated syphilis can also cause serious complications for pregnant women and their babies. A pregnant woman with syphilis can transmit the disease to her unborn child. This is called congenital syphilis.
In up to 40 percent of cases, untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in the death of the child, either before birth or shortly after. In cases where the baby survives, they may develop serious problems within a few weeks if they are not treated immediately. Untreated babies may become developmentally delayed, have seizures, or die.