Midland doctor seeing a rise in ocular syphilis cases

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:16 PM CDT
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MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - A doctor in Midland says he’s seeing an uptick of an inflammatory eye disease that can make people go blind.

Ocular syphilis, or syphilis of the eye, is a dangerous illness. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to your vision.

“Decreased vision, blind spots, color perception is off, the color seem to be dull, those are all tip offs that there may be something going on, and one of the possibilities is ocular syphilis,” said Dr. Gerardo Escobedo.

Dr. Escobedo, who works at Premier Retina Specialists in Midland, says he’s seen seven cases in the past seven months. Usually, these cases are rare, with a case only popping up once a year, if at all.

Five of these cases have been newborns.

“The numbers are not going to lie, they are going up, and we want to get the word out to the public that this is real and they need to practice safe sex,” said Dr. Escobedo.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, but it can also spread through the birth canal, where it affects newborns.

Dr. Escrobedo says symptoms can show up two weeks or even years later, so it’s important to take even the slightest symptoms seriously.

“It can mimic a simple pink eye or a cataract or flashes of light. Floaters, or eye pain or blurred vision. Color perception is off. Many different things that the patients think its nothing bad; I’ll just wait and see if it goes away and meanwhile they have acquired the disease, the infection and they are transmitting it to other people.”

Fortunately, the disease is treatable with penicillin.

Dr. Escobedo encourages anyone experiencing symptoms to go and get tested. He also says that there is a high correlation between syphilis patients and those with HIV, so you should get tested for that as well.

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