VA Boston Medical Forum

A Veteran Presenting With Leg Swelling, Dyspnea, and Proteinuria

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His treponemal test for syphilis will likely stay positive for life. His RPR should decrease significantly with effective treatment. It makes sense to screen with RPR alone as long as he continues to have risk factors for acquiring syphilis. Routine syphilis testing is recommended for pregnant women, sexually active men who have sex with men, sexually active persons with HIV, and persons taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for HIV prevention. He should be screened at least yearly for syphilis.

Dr. Li. Over the next several months, the patient’s creatinine normalized and his proteinuria resolved. His vision recovered, and he has had no further ophthalmologic complications.

Dr. William, what is his long-term renal prognosis? Do you expect that his acute episode of membranous nephropathy will have permanent effects on his renal function?

Dr. William. His rapid response to therapy for neurosyphilis provides evidence for this etiology of his renal dysfunction and glomerulonephritis. His long-term prognosis is quite good if the syphilis is the only reason for him to have renal disease. The renal damage is often reversible in these cases. However, given his prior extensive NSAID exposure and history of hypertension, he may be at higher risk for chronic kidney disease than an otherwise healthy patient, especially after an episode of acute kidney injury. Therefore, his renal function should continue to be monitored as an outpatient.


The authors thank this veteran for sharing his story and allowing us to learn from this unusual case for the benefit of our future patients.

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