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Syphilis Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on November 1, 2008

Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum. Most sexually active persons have heard of this sexually transmitted disease, but few seem to realize how prevalent it's becoming; statistics are steadily on the rise, including the incidence of congenital transmission between mother and baby. This shocks me to no end, given how treatable the infection is. If you're sexually active, you owe it to yourself and your partner to make sure this is included in your regular rounds of routine testing -- and yes, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you're at least health-conscious enough to be testing yourself for things like Hepatitis C, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea!

Syphilis Symptoms: Three Basic Stages

Primary Stage:

The earliest symptoms (of which there may be none) usually involve tiny red sores called chancres. These sores are not actually painful, and may therefore go entirely unnoticed if they pop up in well-hidden places. This spot will be indicative of where the bacterium entered the body. There may be one or more sores at a time, and they can show up anywhere from 3-12 weeks from the time of infection. The chancre will stick around for a few weeks and should resolve itself without treatment -- but this does not mean the bacterium resolves along with it. You are still infected unless you take the proper medication.

Secondary stage:

The most common symptom of this stage is a rash; one which can take on nearly any form, virtually anywhere on the body. Most commonly, it presents as a reddish brown rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet -- but it doesn't have to. The color needn't be particularly noticeable, either, which makes it possible for this stage to pass without noticing it. The rash, noticeable or not, will go away on its own, but again, the infection will remain in the body until proper medication has been administered.

Final stage:

Once the previous symptoms have disappeared, the disease progresses into the latent stage. This stage can pop up decades down the road, and can cause very serious damage to the body, including blindness, organ damage, dementia and other (totally avoidable) things which you really don't want to experience.

Famous People With Syphilis

Adolph Hitler

Ivan the Terrible

Mussolini

Al Capone

(Possibly) Lenin

Congenital: Mother to Baby

If the mother is infected with Syphilis she can pass it to her baby. The resulting infection can lead to stillbirth, or a birth which results in the baby developing a number of complications which may result in death. Therefore, it is very important that pregnant women be tested for Syphilis to rule out any unnecessary risks.

Syphillis Treatment

If Syphilis is detected within the first year of transmission, all you need is a single shot of penicillin (or an alternative injection, if you're allergic to it). If you've detected it further down the road, but prior to the late stage, you can still treat it with penicillin, but will probably require a few additional shots.

A small price to pay for your health and your sanity.

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