- by Specialist Hospital
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- Dec 19 2017
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a highly contagious disease spread primarily by sexual activity, including oral and anal sex. Occasionally, the disease can be passed to another person through prolonged kissing or close bodily contact. Although it is spread from sores, the vast majority of those sores go unrecognized. Pregnant woman with the disease can spread it to their baby. This disease, called congenital syphilis, can cause abnormalities or even death to the child.
It cannot be spread by toilet seats, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
It is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It is a major public health threat, commonly causing serious long-term health problems such as arthritis, brain damage, and blindness.
Stages of Syphilis
Early or primary syphilis: People with primary syphilis will develop one or more sores. The sores are usually small painless ulcers. They occur on the genitals or in or around the mouth somewhere between 10-90 days after exposure. Even without treatment, they heal without a scar within six weeks.
Secondary stage: It may last one to three months and begins within six weeks to six months after exposure. People with secondary experience a rosy “copper penny” rash typically on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They may also experience moist warts in the groin, white patches on the inside of the mouth, swollen lymph glands, fever, and weight loss.
Latent Syphilis: This is where the infection lies dormant without causing symptoms.
Tertiary Syphilis: If the infection is not treated, it may then progress to a stage characterized by severe problems with the heart, brain, and nerves that can result in paralysis, blindness, dementia, deafness, impotence, and even death if it is not treated.
Primary Stage symptoms are:
- Enlarged lymph nodes near the groin
- Small, painless sore on the skin
Secondary Stage symptoms are:
- Skin rash that causes sores
- Sores in mouth, vagina, or anus
- Swollen glands
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Muscle aches
Latent Syphilis symptoms are:
If you are not treated for secondary syphilis, the disease may progress to the latent phase. You won’t have any symptoms, maybe for years. In some cases, symptoms will never return. But the infection isn’t gone, it is simply progressing to the tertiary stage.
Tertiary syphilis symptoms are:
- Brain problems
- Infection and inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord.
- Heart valve disease
- Inflammation of blood vessels
A physical exam is done to check genitals, and look for skin rashes or sores called chancres. A blood test is done to check whether the body is making antibodies to fight the infection or not. The ones that fight syphilis bacteria can stay in your body for years, so the only doctor can tell that you are infected, even if it were a long time ago. It can also be diagnosed by testing fluid from a sore, but this is rarely done.
Even if someone had it and been treated, anyone can get it again by having sex with someone who has it.
The recommended treatment at all stages of this disease is the antibiotic penicillin. There are no over-the-counter medications or home remedies that will cure syphilis, only antibiotics can do that.
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