Syphilitic aseptic meningitis

Alternative Names

Meningitis – syphilitic

Definition of Syphilitic aseptic meningitis

Syphilitic aseptic meningitis is a complication of untreated syphilis that involves inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. People with this condition have changes in mental status and problems with nerve function.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted, infectious disease caused by the spirochete . Syphilis has three main stages:

Signs and tests

An examination may show signs of meningitis. There may be a loss of nerve functions. A brain and nervous system (neurologic) examination may show reduced function of the cranial nerve, including the nerves that control eye movement.


The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and stop the disorder from getting worse. Treating the infection helps prevent new nerve damage and may reduce symptoms, but it does not reverse existing damage.

Expectations (prognosis)

Some people with the condition have worsening disability. Early death is common. Death can be caused directly by the neurologic damage or by the cardiovascular damage that also occurs with late syphilis infections.


Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/30/2010

Central nervous system

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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