Sexually Transmitted Bacterial Infection

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Treponema Pallidum. It infects the genital area, lips, mouth, or anus of both men and women. You usually get syphilis from sexual contact with someone who has it. It can also pass from mother to baby during pregnancy. Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics if you catch it early.

Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading syphilis. The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have anal, vaginal, or oral sex. If you follow this link you will get important treatment information from institutions that are recognized for their scientific accuracy.

The stages are as follows:

Primary Stage

The primary stage beings three to four weeks after initially coming into contact with the bacteria. A small, painless sore called a chancre appears where the bacteria initially entered the body. This sore is highly contagious. It can take anywhere from 10 to 90 days for the chancre to appear. The sore can remain for two to six months.

Secondary Stage

During the second stage, skin rashes develop in various parts of the body. Most notably on the palms and soles of the feet. People can typically experience fatigue, fever, weight loss, headaches, aching joints, hair loss, and swollen lymph nodes.

Latent Stage

Typically during the latent or hidden stage people with syphilis are asymptomatic. Despite being dormant, the infection is still in the system. This stage can last for years before reaching the last stage.

Tertiary Stage

The tertiary stage is the last stage of the syphilis virus. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 15 to 30 percent of people who do not receive treatment will enter this stage. The tertiary stage can happen years to decades after initial exposure to syphilis. During this stage, serious and life-threatening effects can occur - blindness, deafness, mental illness, memory loss, destruction of soft tissue and bone, and neurosyphilis which affects the brain and spinal cord.

Where does Syphilis comes from?

Syphilis comes from a bacteria called Treponema pallidum, which is spread by contact with bodily fluids and blood products. This bacteria spreads through unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex; the use of shared needles; receiving unscreened blood; or can be transferred from mother to baby during pregnancy, labor, or nursing.

How can Syphilis be treated?

Syphilis can easily be treated with an injection of penicillin. This is the safest and most effective antibiotic for treatment. For people that are allergic to penicillin, doctors typically prescribe antibiotics such as ceftriaxone, azithromycin, and doxycycline. If someone infected with syphilis gets neurosyphilis the best form of treatment is penicillin intravenously, so it will often require a short hospital stay. 

If caught in the early stages of syphilis, antibiotics can easily cure someone who is in the primary, secondary, or latent stages of syphilis. However, damage caused during the tertiary stage is irreversible. Despite being able to cure the bacteria, treatment at the final stage of the virus places an emphasis on providing comfort.

Syphilis Common Questions

Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated.

Although transmission appears to occur from persons with sores who are in the primary or secondary stage, many of these sores are unrecognized. Thus, most transmission is from persons who are unaware of their infection. A brief outline of symptoms is listed below:

Primary Stage: One or more scores, that are firm, round, small and painless. The first symptom begins from 10-90 days after infection, lasts three to six weeks, and heals without treatment.

Second Stage: Skin rash and mucous membrane lesions begin shortly after the primary stage is complete. Rashes appear rough, red, or reddish-brown spots both on palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. Additional symptoms include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patch hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue.

Latent Syphilis: Causes no symptoms and the infection can only be detected with a blood test. If not treated, latent Syphilis continues for life. 

Congenital syphilis is a disease that occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy.

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