What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. It starts as a painless sore and develops in stages with the symptoms varying each step. The first stage comprises a painless sore on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. After the initial sore heals, the second stage is usually characterised by a rash. Then the person may not undergo any symptoms until the final stage that may result in damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, or even the heart. It is possible to treat early syphilis, even with a single penicillin shot (injection). It is vital that both sexual partners undergo the necessary treatment. Read more to find out how you can effectively avoid contracting syphilis.

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A bacterial infection commonly transmitted by sexual contact is syphilis. The illness begins as a painless sore, generally on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Syphilis is spread by skin or mucous membrane contact with these syphilis sores from person to person. The syphilis bacteria will stay inactive (dormant) in your body for decades after the initial infection before becoming active again. It is possible to treat early syphilis, even with a single penicillin shot (injection). Syphilis can seriously damage the heart, brain or other organs without treatment and can be life-threatening. Syphilis may be spread from mothers to unborn children as well.

Syphilis

Syphilis

Image Source: Pharmaceutical Journal

Syphilis symptoms

Syphilis progresses in phases, and with each stage, symptoms differ. But the phases may overlap, and there are not always symptoms in the same order. You may be infected with syphilis and for years you won't notice any signs.

● Primary syphilis -

 A tiny sore, called chancre, is the first symptom of syphilis. At the spot where the bacteria entered your body, the sore emerges. Although most syphilis-infected individuals develop only one cancer, some individuals develop multiple of them. The cancer typically grows after about three weeks of exposure. The chancre is not recognized by many people who have syphilis because it is usually painless, and it can be concealed inside the vagina or rectum. Within three to six weeks, the Chancre will recover on its own.

●  Secondary syphilis -

You may develop a rash that starts on your trunk within a few weeks of the original chancre healing but gradually covers your entire body, including the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. This rash is not normally itchy and may be followed in your mouth or genital region by wart-like sores. Hair loss, muscle aches, headache, a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes are also encountered by some people. Within a couple of weeks, these signs and symptoms can disappear or repeatedly come and go for as long as a year.

● Latent syphilis -

 If you are not treated for syphilis, because you have no symptoms, the infection passes from the secondary stage to the latent stage. Signs and symptoms may never come back, or advance to the third (tertiary) stage of the disease.

● Congenital syphilis -

Babies born to women who have syphilis may become infected during birth or via the placenta. There are no signs in most neonates with congenital syphilis, although some develop a rash on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. Subsequent signs and symptoms can include deafness, deformities of the teeth and saddle nose where the nose bridge falls. Babies born with syphilis, however, may also be born too young, born dead (stillborn) or die after birth.

When to see a physician?

If you or your child experiences an irregular discharge, sore or rash, call your doctor, particularly if it happens in the area of the groin.

Syphilis Causes

A bacterium called Treponema pallidum is the cause of syphilis. The most common route of transmission is through touch during sexual activity with the pain of an infected person. The bacteria in your skin or mucous membranes enter your body by small cuts or abrasions. During its primary and secondary phases, and even during the early latent phase, syphilis is contagious. Syphilis does not recur on its own until it is healed. If you have contact with someone's syphilis sore, however, you may become reinfected.

Risk Factors

  • Gettting involved in unprotected sex
  • Sex with multiple partners
  • HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS

Complications of Syphilis

Syphilis can lead to damage to the entire body without treatment. Syphilis also raises the risk of HIV infection and, during pregnancy, can cause problems for women. Treatment can help avoid potential damage, but can not restore damage that has already occurred or reverse damage.

● Small tumours or bumps -

Called gummies, in the late stage of syphilis, these bumps can form on your skin, bones, liver or any other organ. Gummas usually vanish after antibiotic therapy.

● Cardiovascular conditions -

This can involve bulging (aneurysm) and inflammation of the aorta-the main artery of your body-and other blood vessels. Heart valves can also be harmed by syphilis.

● Infection with HIV -

Adults with sexually transmitted syphilis or other genital ulcers are estimated to have a two to five times greater risk of HIV infection. A syphilis sore may bleed easily, providing a simple way during sexual activity for HIV to enter your bloodstream.

● Complications of pregnancy and childbirth -

You can pass on syphilis to your unborn baby if you are pregnant. Within a few days after birth, congenital syphilis significantly raises the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of your child.

Prevention of Syphilis

There is no syphilis vaccine. Follow these recommendations in order to help avoid the spread of syphilis:

  • Refrain from, or remain monogamous. Not having (abstaining from) sex is the only specific way to prevent syphilis. The next best choice is to have monogamous sex with each other, in which all individuals only have sex with each other and neither partner is contaminated.
  • Using a condom with latex. Condoms may decrease your risk of developing syphilis, but only if the syphilis sores are protected by the condom.
  • Stop medications. Alcohol or other drug abuse may impair your judgment and result in inappropriate sexual activities.

When should I test for Syphilis?

It depends as it can take 3 months for the virus to show up on a test, but it only takes a matter of days to a few weeks for STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis to show up. Practicing safer sex lowers your chances of getting or spreading STDs.

Conclusion

It will take you a long way to become healthier and happier with a balanced diet, sleep regimen, and exercise. However, it is not possible to have control over all health conditions. You might end up spending all your life savings on hospital bills with medical emergencies picking up speed! Therefore, what you need is extensive medical coverage in order to remain safe and secure at all times. This disease is a part of preventive health benefits provided with various health insurance plans.

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