Indian J Sex Transm Dis Indian J Sex Transm Dis
Official Publication of the Indian Association for the Study of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 43  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 227-229

Isolated plantar keratoderma with uveitis: A rare presentation of secondary syphilis in an HIV-negative male

Department of Skin/VD, Goa Medical College, Bambolim, Goa, India

Date of Submission27-Apr-2021
Date of Decision13-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance15-Mar-2022
Date of Web Publication01-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Krupeksha Krishnanath Naik
T4 Prajakta Apartments, Sirvodem Navelim, Margao 403707, Goa
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijstd.ijstd_39_21

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How to cite this article:
Naik KK, Bhandare PC, Pai VV. Isolated plantar keratoderma with uveitis: A rare presentation of secondary syphilis in an HIV-negative male. Indian J Sex Transm Dis 2022;43:227-9

How to cite this URL:
Naik KK, Bhandare PC, Pai VV. Isolated plantar keratoderma with uveitis: A rare presentation of secondary syphilis in an HIV-negative male. Indian J Sex Transm Dis [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Nov 30];43:227-9. Available from:


Syphilis can manifest in protean forms. Cutaneous lesions, though the most common manifestation of secondary syphilis can present in many atypical and/or isolated forms.

A 34-year-old male was referred to the dermatology department to rule out any sexually transmitted infections in view of his steroid-resistant uveitis. The patient had earlier presented to the ophthalmology department with eye redness, photophobia, and progressive diminution of vision in both eyes over a period of 6–8 weeks. Ophthalmological evaluation revealed conjunctival congestion, decreased visual acuity (finger counting at 2 and 1 m in the left and right eye respectively), normal depth of the anterior chamber and a clear lens. Both the pupils were normal in diameter and reacted well to light. Fundoscopic examination demonstrated chorioretinitis [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

The patient denied any associated skin, genitourinary or systemic complaints. Cutaneous examination revealed unremarkable skin and mucosa (penile as well as anal) without significant lymphadenopathy. However, bilateral soles showed hyperkeratotic plaques with a marginal collarette of scales [Figure 2]a.{Figure 2}

Considering a differential diagnosis of Reiter's disease and secondary syphilis we investigated the patient. Serological investigations revealed a positive Venereal Disease Research Laboratroy (VDRL) test with a titer of 1:64 and a positive treponema pallidum hemagglutination test. Serology for HIV was nonreactive. A skin biopsy from the sole showed a psoriasiform hyperplasia of the epidermis with hyperkeratosis, acanthosis, papillomatosis, and a moderate amount of spongiosis. The dermis showed focal and perivascular inflammatory infiltrate comprising of lymphocytes and plasma cells with prominent endothelial inflammation. At places, obvious obliteration of the vascular lumina was noted [Figure 3].{Figure 3}

A final diagnosis of secondary syphilis with uveitis was concluded. On probing, the patient revealed his homosexuality and gave a history of unprotected anal intercourse with a partner while on a vacation about 3–4 years ago. However, there was no history of a genital ulcer, generalized rash over the body or any hair loss. Systemic evaluation namely cerebrospinal fluid study, abdominal ultrasound, two-dimensional echocardiography, and magnetic resonance imaging of the orbit and brain were within normal limits.

The patient was started on intravenous benzylpenicillin G 4 million units 4th hourly for 14 days followed by 3 weekly intramuscular injections of benzathine penicillin G 2.4 million units along with topical steroidal eye drops. Over a period of 5 weeks, the patient's skin lesions showed dramatic resolution [Figure 2]b with significant improvement in the visual acuity which improved to 6/18 in both eyes. His latest serology at 5 weeks showed VDRL of 1:32 and is advised to follow-up with repeat tests after 6 months of treatment.

There have been a few citings in the literature associating syphilitic palmoplantar involvement with uveitis.[1],[2],[3],[4] It may be noted that most of these associations were in HIV-positive patients except for the case reported by Hwang et al.[5] In all of these cases, there was concurrent involvement of the palmoplantar surfaces. However, it is important to be aware that sometimes the patient can have totally asymptomatic and isolated palmar or plantar involvement like in our patient, with no telltale signs of infection either on palms or skin or mucosa. Furthermore, the rare combination of plantar keratoderma with ocular syphilis in an HIV-negative individual has not been documented in India.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Kirby JS, Goreshi R, Mahoney N. Syphilitic palmoplantar keratoderma and ocular disease: A rare combination in an HIV-positive patient. Cutis, Vol. 84, no. 6, pp. 305-310. [PMID: 20166572]  Back to cited text no. 1
Radolf JD, Kaplan RP. Unusual manifestations of secondary syphilis and abnormal humoral immune response to Treponema pallidum antigens in a homosexual man with asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus infection. J Am Acad Dermatol 1988;18:423-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kishimoto M, Mor A, Abeles AM, Solomon G, Pillinger MH, Lee MJ. Syphilis mimicking Reiter's syndrome in an HIV-positive patient. Am J Med Sci 2006;332:90-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
Nguyen RH, Nuara AA, Suwattee P, Cockerell CJ, Pandya AG. Uveitis and desquamating rash of the palms and soles. Am J Dermatopathol 2013;35:494-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hwang SW, Kang JH, Chun JS, Seo JK, Kim HW, Lee D, et al. A case of syphilitic keratoderma concurrent with syphilitic uveitis. Ann Dermatol 2009;21:399-401., Vol. 84, no. 6, pp. 305-310. [PMID: 20166572]  Back to cited text no. 5


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