Syphilis

Syphilis is a disease caused by bacteria Treponema pallidum and is sexually transmitted. The disease transmits through sexual contact from an infected person or it can also pass on from mother to child during pregnancy. The areas affected in the body by Syphilis are genitals, mouth, lips and anus.

Symptoms of Syphilis

Syphilis may not show any symptom for many years, so transfer of the infection occurs during sexual contact without the people really being aware of the disease.

When the primary infection occurs, a sore or chancre is formed at the spot of entry of the infection. This chancre is small round and painless, and lasts for 3 to 6 weeks. Though it heals without treatment, it is advised to consult a doctor so that it doesn’t progress to secondary stage of the disease.

If Syphilis progresses to the secondary stage, reddish brown rashes appear on the underside of feet and palms.

Associated symptoms with the secondary stage of Syphilis are;

  • High fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Weight loss
  • Pain in the muscles
  • Extreme weakness
  • Hair loss that is patchy
  • Skin rash

If untreated, Syphilis moves on to the last stage which is also called as latent stage, where the symptoms of the disease are completely hidden for years. The disease resurfaces only after 10 to 20 years.

The last stage is characterized by damage of different organs of the body like heart, brain, liver, eyes, nerves, blood vessels, joints and bones.

The signs of the last stage are;

  • Gradual blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty in moving muscles
  • Dementia

If untreated at this stage, it leads to death of the patient.

To diagnose, the physician may collect fluid discharge from the chancre and observes it under the microscope.

The bacteria Treponema pallidum can be seen if the person has Syphilis.

After the Syphilis infection occurs, the body produces antibodies in response to the infection. These antibodies can be detected by a blood test.

A pregnant lady should definitely go for blood test for detection of syphilis as the disease if left untreated, may cause death of the baby.

In the primary stages of Syphilis, it is much easier to treat it. Antibiotic injection like penicillin is given to Syphilis patients who have the disease for less than one year. Only one shot is required. For people suffering for more than a year, more shots are needed. If the patient is allergic to penicillin, other antibiotic injections are given. The treatment effectively kills the bacteria and prevents further complications.

People who are diagnosed with Syphilis should not have sexual intercourse with new partners, till the treatment for the sores is complete.

For pregnant women with Syphilis, treatment should be started immediately. There is a possibility of reinfection after the treatment, due to some bacteria hidden in the genital areas or mouth. Hence, to confirm if the disease is completely gone, the doctor conducts blood tests at regular intervals.

Syphilis spreads through unsafe sexual contact. To protect yourself from the spread of the disease, it is advised that you use condoms during sexual intercourse, and dental dams during oral sex.

It is important that you talk to your sex partner, if you have Syphilis. It is essential that your partner also gets tested for the disease.

The infectious chancres should be covered by bandage to prevent spread of infection.

A pregnant mother with Syphilis can spread it to her baby. Consult your doctor immediately when you find any symptoms of the disease.

Syphilis and HIV

In syphilis infected sores or chancres are exposed, it is easier for HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease to penetrate through these sores during sexual intercourse from an infected partner. It is advised that people with syphilis also undergo diagnostic tests for HIV, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.

  • To prevent Syphilis, it is advised that you have sexual intercourse with a single uninfected partner.
  • Practicing safe sex is the best way to prevent syphilis. When you are having sexual intercourse, use a latex condom in case of males, and polyurethane condom in case of females.
  • For oral sex, use dental dams that offer protection.
  • Talk about safe sex with your partner.
  • Regular check up at the doctor’s clinic is advised.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol abuse, as they can lead to situations of unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners.

As the saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure’, it is important that sexual partners take all the necessary precautions to avoid Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. The best gift you can give your sexual partner is to practice safe sex.