Prognostic effect of HIV on visual acuity in ocular syphilis: A systematic review



Ocular syphilis is a vision-threatening disease that can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated. The global re-emergence of syphilis warrants greater investigations into the visual prognosis of eyes affected by this potentially devastating disease. This systematic review investigates the impact of HIV on visual acuity (VA) outcomes in ocular syphilis.


A literature search of Medline, PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Reviews was conducted for studies published between 01 January 2011 and 19 March 2022, reporting non-aggregate initial and post-treatment VA data of eyes with ocular syphilis and corresponding HIV status in patients ≥ 18 years.


A total of 95 studies, including 364 patients and 568 eyes, were evaluated. Among people living with HIV with a diagnosis of ocular syphilis, affected eyes were more likely to have optic nerve involvement and panuveitis. However, HIV status, CD4 cell count, and HIV viral load were not predictive of VA outcomes of treated ocular syphilis. Prognostic factors of final VA worse than 1.00 logMAR were female sex, the presence of macular edema, and VA ≥ 1.00 at presentation. The strongest predictor of a worse final VA was VA ≥ 1.00 at presentation.


This systematic review demonstrates that HIV status, CD4 cell count, and HIV viral load are not significant factors impacting VA outcomes of eyes with ocular syphilis. While visual prognosis is generally good, poor visual outcome is most strongly predicted by poor VA at presentation. This underscores the importance of early recognition and treatment prior to permanent vision loss.


Wu LZ, Orlowski TM, Karunatilake M, Lee S, Mondal P, Kogilwaimath S, Bursztyn LLCD




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Co-infections
    • Syphilis


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