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Association between eye diagnosis and positive syphilis test results in a large, urban sexually transmitted infection/primary care clinic population. Int J STD AIDS 2018 Mar;29(4):357-361



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85041849797 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   6 Citations


In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) released clinical advisories on rising cases of ocular syphilis. We examined the association between eye disease and syphilis infection among primary care and sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic patients attending an urban lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) health center. We conducted a retrospective medical record review of all patients who underwent syphilis testing at Howard Brown Health between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2015. Confirmed eye diagnosis was based on International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis codes for conjunctivitis, uveitis, keratitis, retinitis, and red eye. Demographic information, syphilis treatment, HIV status, and high-risk behaviors were abstracted. Syphilis diagnosis was defined by available laboratory data (enzyme immunoassay [EIA], rapid plasma reagin [RPR] titer, fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption [FTA-Abs], Treponema pallidum Ab). Multivariable logistic regression with robust variance was used to identify independent associations. During the study period, 71,299 syphilis tests were performed on 30,422 patients. There were 2288 (3.2%) positive syphilis tests. Seventy-seven patients had a confirmed eye diagnosis (0.25%). Patients with eye disease had higher probability of at least one positive syphilis test (33%) compared to those without eye disease (8%) ( pā€‰<ā€‰0.01). Of patients with eye disease, 77% were men who had sex with men (MSM) and 65% were HIV-positive. Patients with eye disease had 5.97 (95% CI: 3.70, 9.63) higher odds of having syphilis compared to patients without eye disease. When adjusted for age, race, gender/sexual orientation, insurance status, and HIV status, this association between positive syphilis test and eye disease decreased but was still significant (OR 2.00, 95% CI 1.17, 3.41). Patients who present with an eye diagnosis to STI/primary care clinic have a higher probability of positive syphilis tests even after adjusting for other risk factors for syphilis. High-risk patients with eye symptoms should have routine STI testing and in keeping with CDC and AAO recommendations, full ophthalmologic examination.

Author List

Lobo AM, Gao Y, Rusie L, Houlberg M, Mehta SD


Yan Gao PhD Assistant Professor in the Institute for Health and Equity department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Ambulatory Care Facilities
Eye Infections, Bacterial
Homosexuality, Female
Homosexuality, Male
Middle Aged
Syphilis Serodiagnosis
Transgender Persons
Treponema pallidum
United Kingdom