Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Syphilis

Overview of Syphilis

Syphilis is a contagious disease spread from one person to another through direct contact with syphilis sores. A person will come into direct contact with syphilis sores by way of sexual contact with another infected person who has the syphilis sores. Prolonged or deep kissing can also result to a person contracting the disease if the other person has syphilis sores on the lips or in the mouth.

Majority of people who are infected with syphilis are unaware they have the infection, and unknowingly they pass it to their sexual partners.

Mothers can pass the disease to their babies. A pregnant woman infected with syphilis and depending on how long she has been infected with the disease, the results of delivering her unborn baby can be disastrous. The baby can die before or shortly after delivery.

There are instances when a pregnant woman gives birth, the baby does not show any signs and/or symptoms of syphilis. If the baby is not treated immediately, it may lead to serious health problems e.g. deafness, anemia, fever, various deformities and seizures, and ultimately death.

In the case of adults, if it is not treated early, the symptoms are adverse, and it may lead to death.

Syphilis is spread from one person to another through the bacteria called Treponea pallisdum.


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Stages of Syphilis

There are four stages of syphilis which are:

a) Primary stage

In this stage an infected person may develop one or more sores (10 days – 3 months after exposure). The sores usually appear at the location where syphilis entered the body. The sore is painless, firm and round in shape. The sore lasts from between three to six weeks. The sores heal even without treatment within six weeks.

If the infected person is not treated, the infection progresses to the second stage.

b) Second stage

“Skin rashes and/or sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus (also called mucous membrane lesions) mark the secondary stage of symptoms,” states

The secondary stage starts six weeks to six months after infection, and lasts between one to three months. The rashes do not cause itching and their appearance on the rest of the body may be different from those that occur on the soles of feet and palms of hands. As noted by, “This rash may appear as rough, red, or reddish n spots both on the palms of the hands and/or the bottom of the feet. However, this rash may look different on other parts of the body and can look like rashes caused by other diseases.”

As noted by WebMd, “They may also experience moist warts in the groin, white patches on the inside of the mouth, swollen lymph glands, fever, and weight loss. Like primary syphilis, secondary syphilis will resolve without treatment.”

If the person has not yet been treated, the infection will progress to the next stage.

c) Latent stage

In this stage no symptoms appear as the infection is inactive. The person has the syphilis though no signs or symptoms are visible. This stage lasts for years.

d) Tertiary stage

This is the last stage. The infection at this stage may lead to damage of brain, eyes, heart, nerves, liver, bones and joints, and blood vessels. The damage to these internal organs may result to death.

Other symptoms at this stage are: numbness, paralysis, blindness, dementia, deafness and impotence.


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Diagnosis and Treatment of Syphilis

How syphilis is diagnosed

Diagnosis is done through blood test which is the most effective way to determine if a person has syphilis. The antibodies produced by the body to counter the infection of syphilis are the ones which help the doctor to detect if there is presence of this disease.

Treatment of syphilis

It is important to note that over-the-counter drugs and remedies cannot help in treating or curing this disease. It is treated using antibiotics prescribed by the doctor or physician.

Remember, treatment will only help in killing the syphilis bacterium, thereby protecting further damage. However, it will not repair damage that had already been done. This is the reason why it is important to go for testing earlier.

Who should be tested for syphilis?

Syphilis is a disease that was once a threat all over the world, however when treatment for this disease was found, the rate of infection and death decreased. However, in recent years, the disease has become a major problem especially as people have become more active in sex.

It is important to be tested if:

- You have a rash or sore in the genital area

- You have been treated for another STD

- You have been tested for HIV

- You participated in sex with several men/women without knowing their status or using protection

Statistics Don't Lie

Syphilis is rated as one of the top ten dangerous diseases in the world. According to Besttopers, 12.2 million were diagnosed with syphilis, and an estimated 157,000 deaths occur every year. The most affected regions in the world are Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia.

The Importance of Early Treatment

Early detection and treatment of syphilis is essential in order to have a significant impact on slowing the occurrence of this potentially fatal disease.(Sexually Transmitted Disease Resource)

The following resources (links) may be helpful if you want to find out more about syphilis:

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