Think twice the next time that guy you met online asks if you’d like to finish the evening off with a quick facial.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health just issued an advisory on ocular syphilis, aka syphilis of the eyes.
According to AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, as many as 15 cases of ocular syphilis have been identified in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington state since December, with many of them resulting in some level of blindness.
This sounds horrifying.
“These new cases of ocular syphilis highlight the importance of ongoing, regular checkups for sexually-active individuals who feel they may be at risk, particularly men who have sex with men,” Weinstein said.
The San Francisco Health Department is also advising physicians to test for syphilis in any patients with visual complaints, as well as those with genital, oral, or anal ulcers, or rash.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. According to clinical studies, ocular syphilis is an unusual manifestation of the disease that is becoming increasingly less unusual. Symptoms of include blurry vision, floating spots, a blue visual tinge, flashing lights, or eye pain. If untreated, ocular syphilis can attack the nervous system and cause permanent blindness, as it did for two gay men in Washington state in January.
So how can you avoid going blind from ocular syphilis? Easy. Get tested at least once a year, or every three to six months if you’re at elevated risk.