- It is tough to diagnose Syphilis. A person could be infected for years without exhibiting any symptoms.
- If left untreated for a long period, syphilis can severely damage vital organs like the brain and heart.
- Syphilis is not transmitted through sharing clothes, utensils, or the toilet. It is transmitted only via direct contact with sores, called chancres.
- People infected with syphilis have a greater chance of getting HIV, as it becomes easier for HIV to enter the body through sores.
- People who already are HIV-positive may experience different symptoms of syphilis. It is important to discuss how to recognize its symptoms with a doctor.
How does it enter the body?
Bacteria enter the body through direct contact with sores that may appear on the rectum, inside the mouth, and on the sex organs of the infected person.
The first sign of this disease is a small sore, which is often painless. In many cases, people don’t take this seriously and may ignore it.
Congenital syphilis is when the syphilis bacteria enter the fetus through the infected mother’s womb. This condition can wreak havoc in a newborn’s body and even lead to its death. Babies born with this disease show the following symptoms:
- Delay in development
- Swollen spleen or liver
- Infectious sores
If the disease is not detected in time, the baby can reach the last stage of the disease. This may damage his or her brain, eyes, ears, bones, and teeth.
Moreover, pregnant women carrying the bacteria may experience stillbirth, miscarriage, or premature birth.
Stages of syphilis
The disease is classified in four stages:
The first two stages are the most infectious.
The latent or hidden stage shows no symptoms and is not infectious either. However, the bacteria stay active. The last stage, i.e., tertiary is the most damaging one to health.
1. Primary stage
The infection occurs through direct contact with the chancre. This usually happens during sex and, if the sore is inside the mouth, means the bacteria can also spread via oral sex.
In some cases, the sore can appear as quickly as 10 days or as late as 90 days. The sore may stay on skin for 2-6 weeks.
The disease occurs through direct contact with chancre. This usually happens during sex and, if the sore is inside the mouth, that means the bacteria have entered via oral sex.
2. Secondary stage
In this stage, the infected person gets a sore throat and skin rashes, which don’t itch, but may develop anywhere on the body – more often on the soles and palms.
Other symptoms include:
- Swollen lymph glands
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Pain in joints
Symptoms usually go away by themselves; but without treatment, the person is still vulnerable to further infection. This stage of syphilis is generally mistaken for some other disease.
3. Latent stage
This is also called the hidden stage, perhaps because the primary and secondary stage symptoms have gone away and there are no obvious symptoms present now. Yet, the bacteria are still present in the body; and so the person is still infected.
At this stage, two things can happen:
- Secondary symptoms may resurface.
- No symptom may appear and the person stays in this stage for several years before the disease progresses to the last stage.
4. Tertiary stage
This is the last stage of the disease and is life-threatening. About 15%-30% of patients who fail to receive treatment for the disease in the earlier stages enter the tertiary stage. This may begin years or even decades after the initial infection.
The last stage is dangerous and can produce the following outcomes:
- Heart disease
- Loss of memory
- Mental illness
- Neurological disorders like meningitis or stroke
- Damage of soft tissue and bone
- Neurosyphlilis (infection of spinal cord or brain)
STD Testing & Treatment
No Appointment Necessary. Just Walk In During Extended Clinic Hours
STD Express Clinic tests for syphilis with a simple blood or urine analysis. If a sore exists, the doctor may also take a sample from it to detect whether there is syphilis bacteria present or not.
If the tests suggest there may be tertiary syphilis, the doctor may recommend a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. This involves the collection of spinal fluid for detecting syphilis bacteria.
Pregnant women should usually get tested for syphilis whether or not they suspect they have been infection, as they may carry the disease without realizing it. Timely detection can stop the infection being transmitted to the fetus and prevent congenital syphilis.
STD Express Clinic follows the CDC roadmap of modern treatments for primary and secondary stage syphilis.
Patients allergic to penicillin are prescribed different antibiotics in oral form; viz:
Patients with neurosyphilis, developed during the tertiary stage are given intravenous doses of penicillin on a daily basis. This may require a short stay at a hospital.
Remember; antibiotics can kill the syphilis bacteria, but cannot reverse the damage done to vital organs in the last stage.
Avoid all kinds of sexual activity during the treatment until the sores heal completely. If you were sexually active before being diagnosed with this disease, your sex partner should also be treated.
- Practice safe sex.
- Avoid multiple sex partners.
- Do not share sex toys.
- Do not share needles while doing illegal drugs.
- Undergo STD testing as soon as you suspect you have an infection.
Who should get tested for syphilis?
- Pregnant women
- If you had unprotected sex and the partner is unaware of his or her sexual health
- If you have multiple sex partners
The first stage of syphilis almost always goes unnoticed. The second stage symptoms are often mistaken for other illnesses. So, please do not wait for symptoms. If you are in doubt, get tested.