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What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease which is caused by the bacteria-spirochete. It usually starts as a painless sore on the rectum, mouth or the genitals. The disease occurs only through sexual contact with the infected individual. It is highly infectious, and spreads primarily through sexual activity, including anal and oral sex. At times the disease can also spread through prolonged kissing or close body contact. The infected person is often unaware of the disease and unknowingly spreads it to his or her sexual partner. Pregnant women too can pass it onto the foetus, which can cause abnormalities or even death to the child. Syphilis does not spread through door knobs, toilet seats, shared cloths or used utensils.

What are the causes of Syphilis?

Syphilis is caused by the bacteria-spirochete. The most common medium through which it spreads is through contact with the infected person’s sore during sexual activity. During sexual activity the bacteria enters the body through minor cuts in the skin. During its primary and secondary stage it is contagious.

What are the variants and symptoms of Syphilis?

The symptoms of Syphilis vary with each stage as it also develops in stages. The stages may overlap and symptoms may also not occur in the same order. Sometimes people infected with virus do not show any signs and symptoms for years.

  • Primary Syphilis: The initial sign of Syphilis is a small sore, which appears at the spot from where the bacteria entered the body. Majority of the people infected with Syphilis develop only one sore, whereas some develop several of them. The sores usually develop within three months of the exposure. As the sore is painless and hidden within the vagina or rectum, people do not notice the sore
  • Secondary Syphilis: After a few weeks when the original sores heal, one can experience a rash on their trunk that further covers the entire body, which includes the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash is not itchy and is accompanied by sores in the mouth or the genital area. Many people also experience symptoms like fever, sore throat and muscle aches
  • Latent Syphilis: If Syphilis is not treated, then it moves from the secondary stage to the latent stage, which shows no symptoms. The latent stage may last for years. Usually the signs and symptoms may not return, or it can also move on to the tertiary stage
  • Tertiary Syphilis: People who do not get treated for Syphilis will develop complications like progression of the disease to the tertiary stage. In the later stages, the disease can damage the brain, the eyes, nerves, heart, blood vessels, liver, joints and bones. These problems usually occur years after the infection has been contracted and left untreated
Who should be consulted for Syphilis?

One should consult a General Practitioner or a Gynaecologist for Syphilis.

Which factors increase the risk of developing Syphilis?
  • Unprotected sex
  • Sex with multiple partners
  • A man who has sex with men
  • Infected with HIV
What are the complications involved if Syphilis is not treated?

If Syphilis is not treated it can lead to damage throughout the body. It also increases the risk of HIV infection and also can cause problems during pregnancy for women. Proper treatment can help future damage, but the damage that is already occurred cannot be repaired or reversed. Syphilis can cause a lot of problems with your nervous system like:

  • Stroke
  • Visual problems
  • Deafness
  • Meningitis
How can Syphilis be prevented?
  • The best and the only way to avoid Syphilis, is to refrain from sex with multiple partners and have sex with only one partner who is not infected
  • Condoms should be used during sex as it reduces the chances of contracting Syphilis
  • Alcohol and drug consumption should be avoided as it clouds our judgement and leads to unsafe sexual practices
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