Detailed Information on Syphilis

by : Juliet Cohen

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The route of transmission of syphilis is almost always by sexual contact. Syphilis typically has three stages, and there can be different symptoms in each. The symptoms of the first stage of the infection, which is called primary syphilis, typically appear 2 to 12 weeks after sexual contact with an infected person. A painless red sore called a chancre can appear on the genitals, at the area where the infection occurred. Enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands) also might be present in the area. Depending on the type of sexual contact, a chancre might also develop on the mouth or in the rectal area. The secondary stage usually begins weeks to months after the chancre sore appears.

Syphilis bacteria enter the blood and spread through the body, causing many different symptoms, including rash (small red spots), fever, headache, loss of appetite, weight loss etc. Signs and symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death. 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. The syphilis bacterium can infect the baby of a woman during her pregnancy. Genital sores (chancres) caused by syphilis make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually.

There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV infection when syphilis is present. Treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done. When properly and consistently used, condoms decrease the risk of STDs. Latex condoms provide greater protection than natural-membrane condoms. Ceftriaxone may be considered as an alternative therapy, although the optimal dose is not yet defined. Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of syphilis because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. Transmission of a STD, including syphilis cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and or douching after sex. Avoid sex, or limit sexual relations to a single, uninfected partner.

Syphilis Treatment and Prevention Tips

1. Ceftriaxone may be considered as an alternative therapy also helpful in Syphilis.

2. Avoid sex, or limit sexual relations to a single, uninfected partner.

3. Maintain a mutually monogamous, long-term relationship with someone who is not infected.

4. If you don't know the STD status of your partner, use a latex condom with each sexual contact.

5. Avoid excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, which can cloud judgment and lead to unsafe sexual practices.