What we Should know about Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection which can have serious consequences if left untreated. It can be cured, but if left neglected, it can affect the brain, nervous system, and heart, and can even lead to death.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is caused by treponema pallidum. This bacteria cannot survive outside the human body. The syphilis bacteria can infect the penis, vagina, anus, urethra, lips, and mouth.
Stages of Syphilis Infection
The syphilis infection can be broadly classified into four basic stages which are listed below:
- Primary Stage: The primary stage is marked by the appearance of single or multiple sores which are round, firm, and painless. The sore appears at the point where the infection enters your body. Since they are painless, these sores often go unnoticed. The sores heal over a period of 3-6 weeks, even without any treatment.
- Secondary Stage: This stage marks the appearance of sores and rashes in your vagina, anus, and mouth. The rashes don’t itch and might even be too faint to be noticed. Other symptoms that might appear include fever, weight loss, head ache, and fatigue. These symptoms also go away without any medication even as the infection progresses towards the latent stage.
- Latent and Late or Tertiary Stage: This stage typically begins when all of the symptoms from the previous stage have disappeared. In the absence of adequate treatment, people remain infected with syphilis for years without exhibiting any symptoms. A number of people do not move on to late stages of syphilis. But, when syphilis does move on to the late stages, it is serious and symptoms might even appear 10 to 30 years after getting infected. Typical symptoms include paralysis, difficulty in coordinating muscle movements, dementia, and blindness. In later stages, the internal organs can get damaged leading to death.
How does Syphilis Spread?
You can be infected by syphilis if you come in directly in contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. As syphilis sores are hidden inside the vagina, anus, foreskin of penis, and mouth, it is very difficult to know whether the sex partner has syphilis. Therefore, it is very easy to contact syphilis from a previously unknown sex partner.
Syphilis is also transmitted from a mother who is infected with syphilis to an unborn baby. Syphilis is often known as the great imitator as most of the symptoms of syphilis resemble the symptoms of other diseases. The painless sore of syphilis is often confused with an ingrown hair or a zipper cut.
Unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex increase the chances of getting syphilis for a person who is sexually active. A simple blood test is typically used to verify whether a person has been infected by syphilis.
Treatment of Syphilis
Syphilis, if detected early on, can be cured by taking appropriate antibiotics as prescribed by a health care provider. However, the treatment will not be able to undo the damage already done by the syphilis virus. A person who has been treated for syphilis can again get re-infected.
- “Treatment of Syphilis” by R.R. Willcox. Published in 1981 , Volume 59(5), of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, accessed on 8 May 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2396111/pdf/bullwho00422-0010.pdf