Neurology India
menu-bar5 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus
  Users online: 9074  
 Home | Login 
About Editorial board Articlesmenu-bullet NSI Publicationsmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Videos Etcetera Contact
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »Related articles
  »  Article in PDF (535 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  Abstract
 » Case Report
 » Disscussion
 » Conclusion
 »  References

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded49    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents    
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 68  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 487-488

General Paresis of Insane: A Forgotten Entity

Department of Neurology, NEIGRIHMS, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Medical Sciences Shillong, Meghalaya, India (An Autonomous Institute, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India), India

Date of Web Publication15-May-2020

Correspondence Address:
Shri Ram Sharma
NEIGRIHMS, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Shillong, Meghalaya
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.284383

Rights and Permissions

 » Abstract 

The manifestations of CNS syphilis are unfamiliar to a differential of patients with dementia to many physicians today as of the relative rarity of this condition. This is a classical case report of a patient with syphilis and dementia in a 55-year-old female. General paresis of insane is a progressive disease of the brain leading to mental and physical worsening. It is important to consider tertiary syphilis in the differential diagnosis of dementia. Conventional presentations of neurosyphilis such as tabes dorsalis and general paresis of insane are read in textbooks only and rarely encountered in clinical practice in the 21st century.

Keywords: Dementia, general paresis, neurosyphilis, psychiatric manifestations
Key Message: Neurosyphilis still remains a problem in a country like India and a high index of suspicion and clinical expertise are required for appropriate diagnosis and proper management especially in the era of AIDS pandemic

How to cite this article:
Sharma SR, Hussain M, Roy D. General Paresis of Insane: A Forgotten Entity. Neurol India 2020;68:487-8

How to cite this URL:
Sharma SR, Hussain M, Roy D. General Paresis of Insane: A Forgotten Entity. Neurol India [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 May 26];68:487-8. Available from: https://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2020/68/2/487/284383

Syphilis is believed to be brought to India by the Portuguese in the 16th century.[1] Syphilis has expanded rapidly in the past two decades. The increase started in the late 1970s, due to the alteration in sexual behavior.[2] Neurosyphilis is a mysterious disease because it imitates psychiatric diseases leading difficulties in differential diagnosis. In addition, antibiotics may change its natural course, and therefore its clinical manifestations.[3] Neurosyphilis is rather an unusual cause of dementia characterized by a rapidly progressive course and psychiatry symptoms.[4]

Paretic neurosyphilis or general pareses usually develop 15-20 years after infection. PARESIS is an acronym ((involvement of Personality, Affect, Reflexes, Eye, Sensorium, Intellect and Speech). Upon clinical suspicion, diagnosis of neurosyphilis is confirmed by a reactive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) VDRL, Treponem pallidam Hemagglutination assay (TPHA). CSF examination was mandatory in neurosyphilis diagnosis.[4]

Asymptomatic cases and cases with ill-defined syndrome become more common than the classic presentation of tabes dorsalis and general paresis. In this article, we present a case of neurosyphilis with progressive cognitive changes and intractable behavior and psychiatric problems whose primary and secondary phases were not detected.

 » Case Report Top

We present a case of a 55-year-old female presented with complaints of forgetfulness, irritability, crying spells, aggressive behavior, hallucinations and illusions over the last 5-6 months. Her symptoms had started with features of withdrawn behavior, became less communicative than before. She was quiet most of the time and she was not oriented to time, place and person. She cannot recognize the immediate family member as well as cannot engage in long conversations like before. The patient had problem of forgetfulness, she often would venture out and forget the way back. She had started remaining fearful and would prefer to stay indoors and keep the doors and windows of the house closed. She would often burst into tears for no apparent reason. She was taken to a psychiatrist and put on antipsychotic drugs with no benefit. Her medical and family histories were not remarkable. She did not have multiple partner sexual contact. Her folstein mini mental score was 7/30. Our patient was not fully oriented, memory assessment revealed a severe verbal learning impairment with an extremely low ability to retain new information. She also demonstrated difficulty with remembering autobiographical and personal information. A severe dysexecutive syndrome was also documented. Other observations included defects in judgment, emotional ability, delusions and inappropriate social and moral behavior. She used to soil her clothes with urine and stool. The patient had unsteady gait disturbance. Her neurological examination showed that the right pupil was 2.5 mm with minimum reaction to light. The left pupil was 6 mm and reactive to light. Unequal pupils with one of them reactive to light: the other not reactive, pupils react normally to convergence accommodation. The rest of cranial nerves except eighth having mild bilateral conductive deafness were intact with good gag reflex. Reflexes were 2+ all over, nystagmus absent. Babinski was positive on right side, muscle power was 3/5, unsteady gait. Laboratory workups, including a complete and differential blood count, serum electrolytes and glucose, liver and renal function tests, thyroid function tests, serum B12 and folate levels were normal. Serological tests for HIV and hepatitis B/C were negative. No autoimmune and or inflammatory markers were found. In addition, CSF analysis showed pleocytosis (20 leukocytes/mm3, mainly lymphocyte), elevated protein levels and normal glucose. Serum VDRL was positive in 1:128, the serum TPHA was positive at 1:2560 dilution. CSF yielded positive for VDRL 1:4 and CSF-TPHA – 1:640. Although brain MRI was negative, EEG levels were within normal limits. The patient was diagnosed as having dementia due to neurosyphilis. She was started on 24 million units of aqueous penicillin G IV qid for 21 days and clonazepam 2 mg/day orally and resperidone 2 mg/day, for behavior disorders and agitation. During her follow-up, we did not observe any improvement in her psychiatric symptoms, cognitive functions; urinary and fecal incontinence 2.4 million units' benzathine penicillin/month IM prophylaxis was planned for maintenance treatment. CSF was not re-evaluated.

 » Disscussion Top

Syphilis is a multisystem chronic infection caused by Treponema pallidum. There is a widely held clinical opinion that syphilis has disappeared. In contrast, there are sporadic cases being reported across the country.[1] Rapidly progressive dementia (RPD) associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms is the most common form of presentation of general paresis and includes a series of disturbances such as personality changes, amnesia, delusions, hallucinations and delirium.[4]

No clinical or dermatological symptoms or sign was found related to primary and secondary stages of syphilis in our patient's history. It is noteworthy that clinical picture emerged with tertiary syphilis first. This can be explained by the change in the natural course of the disease by widespread antibiotic use and not remembering the past of the patient and Her family.[5] However, although disease-related symptoms are generally observed in primary syphilis, only 1%-2% of patients with secondary syphilis are symptomatic.[6] Patients enter into latent/asymptomatic phase which only serological findings are present after recovery from secondary stage. At this stage, CSF is generally normal and if there are abnormal CSF finding then it is evaluated as asymptomatic neurosyphilis. Tertiary syphilis develops in more than 1/3 of untreated patients.[7]

Response to treatment is inadequate in parenchymatous neurosyphilis cases compared to syphitic meningitis and meningovascular syphilis patients. This is mainly due to irreversible neuronal damage in general paresis. The most effective treatment is high-dose IV crystallized penicillin.[8]

Our case had a classical presentation of general paresis of insane as it typically started with affective symptoms which gradually progressed to cognitive decline leading to frank dementia. General paresis of insane is a parenchymatous neurosyphilis (dementia paralytica) which is a form of tertiary syphilis develops 10-20 years after the primary infection.

 » Conclusion Top

Syphilis is still prevalent, especially in particular sections of the population. Late complications can be somewhat less of an issue than the preantibiotic era, however, vigilance to the probability of late neurosyphilis and appreciation of clinical manifestation of late syphilis is crucial if these forms of disease are to be diagnosed and treated adequately. The main considerations must be vigilance in finding, treating, and preventing early syphilis. Since all forms of syphilis, especially advanced neurosyphilis are less common than the glory days of syphilis, it is important to educate others and remind ourselves of the multiple faces of the great actor, lues venerea.

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.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 » References Top

Patra S, Mishra A. General paresis of insane: A rarity or reality? Ind Psychiatry J 2010;19:132-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Abdulrazak A. Is it general paresis? Middle East J Age Ageing 2016;13:29-34.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ozelek S, Erdem M. Uzun O, Ihca AT, Ozsahin A. A neurosyphilis case presenting with dementia. J Psychiatry Neurolog Sci 2011;24:145-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Stefani A, Riello M, Rossini F, Mariotto S, Fenzi F, Gambina G, et al. Neurosyphilis manifesting with rapidly progressive dementia: Report of three cases. Neurol Sci 2013;34:2027-30.  Back to cited text no. 4
Rowland LP, Stefanis L, Spirochete infections: Neurosyphilis. In: Rowland LP, editor. Merrit's Neurology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2000. p. 182-5.  Back to cited text no. 5
Thappa DM. Evolution of venereology in India. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2006;72:187-97.  Back to cited text no. 6
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Sobhan T, Rowe HM, Ryan WG, Munoz C. Unusual case report: Three cases of psychiatric manifestations of neurosyphilis. Psychiatr Serv 2004;55:830-2.  Back to cited text no. 7
Sethi S, Das A, Kakkar N, Banga SS, Prabhakar S, Sharma M. Neurosyphilis in a tertiary care hospital in north India. Indian J Med Res 2005;122:249-53.  Back to cited text no. 8


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 20th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow