Syphilis Eye Disease (Ocular Syphilis) in King County

Six cases of ocular syphilis were identified in WA State between mid-December, 2014 and mid-January, 2015. Four of these cases were diagnosed in King County. All the King County cases were in gay and bisexual men. And two ended up permanently blind. Three of the King County cases also had HIV.

Key Facts

  • Ocular syphilis does not happen from getting semen (cum) in your eyes. But it can happen when blood that carries syphilis reaches your brain or eyes. Syphilis can enter your body and your blood during oral, vaginal or anal sex.
  • Syphilis eye disease is unusual. Most people seek treatment and are cured before syphilis causes lasting damage to the brain or eyes. But if syphilis isn’t treated early, damage to your eyes and other organs can be permanent.
  • Symptoms of syphilis eye disease include:
    • Blurry vision
    • Floaters (spots that float through your vision)
    • A blue tinge in vision
    • Flashing lights
    • Eye pain
Get tested for syphilis if you experience any of these vision problems.
  • One shot of antibiotics will usually cure syphilis. Don’t delay. Get tested, Get Cured.

For more information:

Download the Public Health alert for gay and bi men. English (PDF) Spanish/español (PDF). 
Download the full advisory for health care providers here (PDF).
Download the healthcare provider screening questions for neurosyphilis, including ocular and otosyphilis here (PDF).

Take the Syphilis in Seattle Quiz