A highly contagious sexually transmitted disease, Syphilis is caused and spread by the Treponema pallidum bacterium. The disease goes unnoticed in its early stages, since it is spread from sores that are often unrecognized. As a result, the infected person unknowingly passes on the disease to their sexual partner. The infection may pass on from a pregnant mother to her baby, which may even prove fatal for the child.
The disease poses a serious health problem, and has been on the rise, with an increasing number of cases every year. If left untreated, the condition may develop into more serious health problems, including arthritis and blindness. It may even cause damage to the brain.
- Early or primary syphilis – In the early stage, people develop one or more sores in the genitals, which are usually in the form of small-sized painless ulcers. They may also occur in or around the mouth within three weeks after contract. They heal within six weeks and may not leave a scar.
- Secondary stage – This stage usually begins after six weeks and may last for six months. A rosy “copper penny” rash may appear on the palms and feet soles after six weeks. However, there may be other types of rashes on other parts, which often resemble those caused by other diseases. Swollen lymph glands, white patches in the mouth, moist warts in the groin, and fever, and weight loss are other signs that may gradually show up.
- Latent syphilis – In this stage, there are no symptoms, as the infection is inactive. The patient may continue to have the disease for years if the condition is not treated, without showing any specific symptoms.
- Tertiary syphilis – Untreated infection in the earlier stages may take a severe form and affect the nerves, brain, and heart. It could even cause nerve damage, resulting in blindness, paralysis, dementia, blindness, impotence, and deafness. In some cases, the patient could even die, if the condition is not treated timely and it involves other organs. Symptoms may include paralysis, difficulty coordinating muscle movements, blindness, dementia, and numbness, and the disease gradually damages internal organs, resulting in death.
A blood test is usually performed on the patient to diagnose syphilis. Some doctors use testing fluid from a syphilis sore for diagnosis and to rule out other conditions.
A single dose of penicillin may be enough to destroy the infection if the condition has been affecting you for less than a year. Other antibiotic drugs may be administered to patients allergic to penicillin.
The best way to prevent a sexually transmitted disease like syphilis is to have sex with a faithful partner or use protection during intercourse. This will help reduce your chances of contracting infection.