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Can STDs Become Eye Diseases?

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are bacterial STIs that can spread to the eyes and cause problems like conjunctivitis or blindness.

Conjunctivitis From Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Better known as pinkeye, conjunctivitis is typically caused by bacteria associated with colds, sore throats, or infections of the ears or sinuses. However, the bacteria that cause sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause conjunctivitis. This bacteria can spread to one or both eyes after someone touches an infected person’s genitals and then rubs their own eye or touches one of their contact lenses before washing their hands.

Signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

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  • Pink or red color in the whites of the eyes.
  • Eye discomfort, including an itchy or gritty feeling.
  • Discharge from the eye.
  • Pain and swelling of the conjunctiva.
  • Increased tear production.
  • Crusting on the eyelids and eyelashes, especially after sleeping.

As with gonorrhea and chlamydia infections that occur in the genital area, conjunctivitis caused by one of these STIs can be easily treated with antibiotics. This medication is typically given as eye drops or an ointment that is applied several times per day. If you use contact lenses, you may be advised to avoid wearing them until your treatment is complete.

Vision Damage From Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that goes through up to four stages of infection. In the last stage (also known as the tertiary stage), the infection can cause serious damage to various organs in the body, including the eyes. This can lead to vision issues or even blindness. If syphilis continues to be left untreated, it could even be fatal.

Antibiotics are used to treat syphilis. When it’s treated early on, it doesn’t progress to the later stages of infection. Antibiotic treatment cannot undo any of the damage caused by the infection, so it’s important to get tested and seek treatment promptly.

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