Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. The disease is treatable in its early stages, but if left untreated, it can lead to disability, neurological disorders and even death.
The bacteria Treponema pallidum (T. pallidum) causes syphilis. There are four stages of the disease: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that 64% of the trusted sources of syphilis presentations involved men who have sex with men. However, the number of cases of heterosexual sex among men and women is also increasing.
Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, especially in the early stages. It doesn’t settle without treatment.
In this article, we explain the different stages of syphilis and whether it is curable, as well as how to recognize and treat the disease.
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is an infection that develops with the bacteria T. pallidum. These bacteria can spread person-to-person through direct contact with syphilitic ulcers.
These sores can develop on the skin or mucous membranes of the vagina, anus, rectum, lips, or mouth.
Syphilis is most likely spread through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. People rarely pass bacteria through kisses.
The first sign is a painless sore on the genitals, rectum, mouth, or another part of the skin. Some people do not notice an ulcer, as it is painless.
These sores resolve on their own. However, if a person is not treated, the bacteria will remain in the body. They may be inactive in the body for decades. Trusted source before reactivation and damage to organs, including brain.
The stage of syphilis is classified as primary, secondary, latent, or third by doctors. A series of symptoms define each stage.
This Disease Can Be Infectious Origin is in the primary and secondary stage and sometimes in the early latent stage. Tertiary syphilis is not contagious, but it has the most severe symptoms.
The main symptoms
Symptoms of primary syphilis include one or more round, painless, hard, and round sores or sores. They appear 10 days to 3 months after the bacteria enter the body.
Chancres will run out within 2–6 weeks. However, if left untreated, the disease can persist in the body and progress to the next stage.
Secondary syphilis symptoms include:
* Wart-like sores on the mouth, anus, and genitals
* An itchy, rough, red, or reddish-brown rash that starts on the trunk and spreads to the entire body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
* Muscle pain
* Sore throat
* Swollen lymph nodes
* Patchy hair loss
* Unexplained weight loss
These symptoms may go away a few weeks after they first appear. They can also return several times over longer periods of time.
If left untreated, secondary syphilis can progress to an latent and tertiary stage.
The latent period can last for several years. During this time, the body will remain ill with no symptoms.
However, the T. pallidum bacteria remains lurking in the body, and there is always a risk of recurrence. Doctors still recommend treatment for syphilis at this stage, even if symptoms do not occur.
After the latent phase, tertiary syphilis can develop.
Tertiary syphilis, or late syphilis
Tertiary syphilis can occur for 10–30 years. A reliable source after infection begins, usually after a latent period of time without symptoms.
At this stage, syphilis damages the following organs and systems:
* Blood vessels
Gum can also grow. This is an swelling of soft tissue that can occur anywhere in the body.
Organ damage means tertiary syphilis can often lead to death. Hence, treatment of syphilis before it reaches this stage is very important.
Neurosyphilis is a condition that develops when the T. pallidum bacteria has spread to the nervous system. It is often related to latent and tertiary syphilis. However, it can happen any time after the elementary stage.
A person with neurosyphilis may have no symptoms for a long time. In addition, symptoms can develop gradually.
Symptoms include Trusted Sources:
* Dementia or altered mental condition
* Abnormal gait
* Numbness in limbs
* Problems with concentration
* Headache or convulsions
* Vision problems or vision loss
Congenital syphilis is very severe and often life-threatening. T. pallidum bacteria can be passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus through the placenta and during childbirth.
Data show that without screening and treatment, about 70% of women with syphilis will experience an adverse outcome during pregnancy.
Adverse outcomes include premature or neonatal death, premature or low birth weight, and infection in the infant.
Symptoms in the newborn include:
* Saddle nose, lack of nasal bridge.
* Difficulty gaining weight
* Rashes on the genitals, anus, and mouth
* Small blisters on the hands and feet turn a copper rash, which may be rough or flat and spread to the face
* Watering nose
Infants and young children may experience:
* Hutchinson teeth, or unusual, pin-shaped teeth
* Bone pain
* Loss of vision
* Hearing loss
* Swollen joints
* Saber shins, a bone problem in the lower leg
* Scarring of the skin around the genitals, anus, and mouth
* Gray patches around the outer vagina and anus
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed Cuba as the first country in the world A reliable source has completely eliminated congenital syphilis.
Can it be cured?
Anyone worried that they might have syphilis or another sexually transmitted infection (STI) should talk to a doctor as soon as possible, as prompt treatment can cure the disease.
Early treatment with penicillin is very important, as the disease can lead to life-threatening consequences.
At a later stage, syphilis is still curable. However, a person may require a longer course of penicillin.
If nerve or organ damage occurs in the later stages of syphilis, treatment cannot be repaired. However, treatment can prevent further damage by removing bacteria from a person’s body.
Syphilis treatment can be successful, especially in its early stages.
Treatment strategy will depend on symptoms and how long a person has contained the bacteria. However, in the primary, secondary, or third stage, people with syphilis will usually receive penicillin G benzathine intramuscularly.
Tertiary syphilis will require multiple injections every week.
Neurosyphilis requires an intravenous (IV) injection of penicillin every 4 hours for 2 weeks to eliminate bacteria from the central nervous system.
Curing the infection will prevent further damage to the body and safe sexual activities can continue. However, processing cannot undo any damage. A reliable source has happened.
People who are allergic to penicillin can sometimes take an alternative medicine in the early stages. However, during pregnancy and in the third stage, anyone with an allergy will be desensitized to penicillin for safe treatment.
After birth, a newborn with syphilis must be treated with antibiotics.
Chills, fever, nausea, aches, and headaches may occur on the first day of treatment. Doctors consider these symptoms to be the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. It does not indicate that a person should stop treatment.
When is it safe to have sex?
People with syphilis must avoid having sex until they have completed all treatment and received blood test results confirming that the disease is cured.
It can take several months for blood tests to show that the syphilis has dropped to a proper level. A sufficiently low level confirms the appropriate treatment.
Examination and diagnosis
A doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask about a person’s sexual history before performing clinical tests to confirm syphilis.
* Blood tests: These tests can detect a current or past infection, as antibodies against syphilis will persist for many years.
* Body fluids: A doctor can evaluate the fluid from a gas in the primary or secondary stage.
Cerebrospinal fluid: The doctor can take this fluid through the spinal canal and examine it to monitor the effect of the disease on the nervous system.
If a person gets diagnosed with syphilis, they must notify any sexual partner. Their partners should also go through the trial.
Local services are available to inform sexual partners of their possible exposure to syphilis, to allow testing and treatment if needed.
Healthcare professionals will also recommend an HIV test.
When will the test be received
Many people with an STI won’t know about it. Therefore, you should speak with your doctor or order a test in the following situations:
* After having unprotected sex
* Having a new sex partner
* Having multiple sex partners
* Sex partner diagnosed with syphilis
* One man having sex with different men
* Symptoms of syphilis
Syphilis develops when T. pallidum is passed from person to person during sexual activity.
Infections can be passed from a woman to the fetus during pregnancy or during a newborn baby. This type is called congenital syphilis.
Syphilis is not contagious A reliable source of general contact with objects, such as doorknobs, eating utensils and toilets.
People who are sexually active are at risk of contracting syphilis. People at greatest risk include:
* People who have unprotected sex
* Men who have sex with men
* People with HIV
* Individual with more than one sexual partner
Sympathetic ulcers also increase the risk of HIV infection.
Preventive measures to reduce the risk of syphilis include:
* Abstain from sexual intercourse
* Maintain a long-term monogamy with a syphilis-free partner
* Use a condom, although it only protects from organ ulcers genitals rather than sores that develop elsewhere on the body
* Use dental dams, or plastic squares, when having oral sex
* Avoid sharing sex toys
* Limit alcohol and Drugs can lead to unsafe sexual behaviors
Having syphilis once does not mean a person is protected from it in the future. Even after treatment successfully removes syphilis from a person’s body, they can still get the disease again.