Syphilis - Symptoms and Treatment of Syphilis

By: Corwin Brown

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium. The initial infection causes an ulcer at the site of infection. It has often been called "the great imitator" because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.

Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to the babies they are carrying. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.

Symptoms

The first symptom of syphilis is a single, raised sore called a chancre. It usually appears on the genitals, mouth, or rectum an average of 3 weeks after exposure. When the chancre is on the penis or near the vagina, lymph nodes in the groin may also become swollen. Because the sore is painless, many people may ignore it unless it becomes infected. The sore can last for several weeks and go away by itself. Without treatment, however, the person still has syphilis which can progress to the secondary stage.

In some cases, there is a patchy hair loss, muscle and joint pain, or swollen glands.
Although no clinical symptoms occur in latent syphilis, it produces a reactive serologic test for syphilis. Because infectious mucocutaneous lesions may reappear when infection is of less than 4 years'duration, early latent syphilis is considered contagious.

The syphilis bacteria begin to affect the vital organs of the body, including the eyes, liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. Symptoms including memory loss, vision problems, and loss of muscle control may occur. A small percentage of those diagnosed with tertiary syphilis will experience life-threatening complications.

Treatment

Have a sexual relationship with one partner who has been tested for syphilis and is not infected is another way to reduce your chances of getting infected. Be faithful to each other, meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
Syphilis is a very easy disease to treat. Those experiencing symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis infection generally only need a single intramuscular shot of penicillin to be completely cured. If you have had the disease for a long time (more than one year) you may require multiple penicillin injections. Some patients with severe symptoms need to be hospitalized so that they can receive penicillin daily, through an intravenous line.

Talk frankly with your doctor or nurse and your sex partner(s) about any STDs you or your partner have or had. Talk about any sores in the genital area. Try not to be embarrassed. Being honest could save your lives.

It is strongly advisable to avoid any oral, vaginal or anal sex whilst having treatment, especially if the patient is in the early infectious stages of syphilis. Contact with any sores or rashes carries a risk of syphilis transmission.

Although using a condom reduces the chances of becoming infected with syphilis, it is not entirely effective. A condom may not cover all of the sores or rashes in the affected areas, and direct skin contact may result in transmission.

Stds
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