Neurosyphilis? Wait… reactive arthritis!

Thanks to Tim for presenting the interesting case of a middle-aged man with h/o inadequately treated syphilis who presented with neck stiffness worse in the mornings, back pain, and blurry vision, admitted for presumed neurosyphilis.  Exam revealed inflammation of T2/T3 joints, L SI joint tenderness, and an inflamed R foot with dactylitis of the 3rd and 4th digits.  Further history revealed a recent gonorrhea/chlamydia for which he was treated and HLA B27 positivity consistent with reactive arthritis!  He was started on NSAIDs with significant improvement of symptoms.


Clinical Pearls:

  • Neurosyphilis is most commonly seen in HIV positive patients and can present at any time after infection.
  • Early neurosyphilis occurs within the first year after infection and involves the CNS, meninges, and vasculature
    • Neurosyphilis presents with posterior uveitis or pan-uveitis whereas reactive arthritis presents with anterior uveitis
  • Late neurosyphilis occurs >10 years after infection and involves the brain and spinal cord parenchyma
  • The four main spondyloarthropathies are ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and IBD-related arthritis.
  • The genital pathogen most commonly associated with reactive arthritis is chlamydia trachomatis.
    • HLA B27 is positive in 30-50% of patients
    • Mainstay of treatment is NSAIDs
    • Disease typically lasts 3-5 months.

 

Syphilis

Clinical manifestations and treatment of different stages of syphilis

Neurosyphilis manifestations

  • Refer to this prior post
  • Early (w/n first year of infection)
    • CSF, meninges, vasculature
    • Symptomatic meningitis
    • Ocular syphilis (posterior uveitis, panuveitis)
    • Meningovascular syphilis
      • Arteritis of any sized vessel which can lead tostroke or spinal cord infarction
  • Late
    • Brain and spinal cord parenchyma
      • General paresis (10-25 years after initialinfection)
        • Progressive dementia
        • Psychiatric symptoms
      • Tabes dorsalis (>20 years after initialinfection)
        • CSF may be completely normal
        • Affects dorsal columns
        • Symptoms
          • Sensory ataxia
          • Argyll-Robertson pupil
          • Lancinating pains
  • Diagnosis
    • Non-treponemal tests (poor sensitivity but highspecificity)
      • VDRL
      • RPR
    • Treponemal tests
      • FTA-ABS
      • Syphilis EIA
    • In an HIV negative patient with suspectedneurosyphilis and a non-reactive CSF-VDRL, one can establish the diagnosis with
      • CSF lymphocytes >5 cells/microL
      • CSF protein concentration >45

Reactive Arthritis

  • Epimiology
    • Young adults, M:F equal
  • Typically follows GI or urogenital infections (several days to weeks after infection)
    • Chlamydia trachomatis (most common genital infection associated)
    • Yersinia
    • Salmonella
    • Shigella
    • Campylobacter
    • E coli
    • C diff
    • Chlamydia pneumoniae
  • Manifestations
    • Mono- or oligoarticular pattern of arthritis,often involving the lower extremities, sometimes associated with dactylitis and enthesitis
    • The triad of arthritis, urethritis, andconjunctivitis is only present in a subset of patients (formerly called Reiter’s syndrome)
    • Ocular manifestions: conjunctivitis, less frequently anterior uveitis, episcleritis, and keratitis.
    • Other: 
      • Skin: keratoderma blennorhagica, erythema nodosum
      • Circinate balanitis 
      • Nail changes resembling psoriatic arthritis
  • Lab
    • E/o of antecedent or concomitant infection
    • Elevated acute phase reactants
    • Positive HLA-B27 (present in 30-50% of patients)
    • Inflammatory synovitis
    • Imaging consistent with enthesitis or arthritis
  • Treatment
    1. Treat any ongoing concurrent infection
    2. NSAIDs (first line)
    3. Steroids (if refractory to NSAIDs)
    4. DMARDS (for chronic reactive arthritis)
    5. Anti-TNF (last resort)
  • Prognosis
    • Duration is typically 3-5 months
    • >6 months duration is considered chronic reactive arthritis
    • Most remit completely or have little active disease w/n 6-12 months after presentation
    • 15-20% may experience more chronic persistent arthritis

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