Syphilis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is mostly spread through sexual contact. It can also spread through close contact, person to person via physical touch upon direct contact with the sores. The sores are painless that occur at the mouth, genitals, or rectum. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis, if left untreated can lead to neurological and cardiac complications. 


Sexually transmitted diseases are the ones that spread through sexual contact. They can spread through anal, vaginal, or oral sex and are amongst the most contagious diseases. It is also called sexually transmitted infections or venereal diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases do not always cause symptoms. It may be possible that your partner seems healthy and has no signs and symptoms. They may not even know about their health. But they can still transmit it to you through anal, vaginal, or oral sex. 


It can spread to your sexual partner if you have had unprotected sex. Not only they spread through sex. But they can also be transmitted through breast milk, blood transfusions, and sharing of needles. Therefore, to prevent their spread, infected mothers should not breastfeed their infants. Moreover, needle sharing should not be done in any case. There should be always a separate needle used for each person. Screening of blood before transfusion can help reduce the incidence of transmitting STDs from one person to another through the blood. 


Symptoms 


The signs and symptoms of syphilis may not be the same for all people. They may differ from person to person. Sometimes you may be infected and you may not know even for years. The stages of syphilis can be described as;


Primary syphilis- at this stage, only a sore appears as the bacteria enter your body. The sore at this stage is known as a chancre. Many people do not note it because it is painless and often hidden under the rectum or vagina. Chancre often heals on its own in four to six weeks. 


Secondary syphilis- after some days of chancre healing, a rash may appear on your body. In the start, it often appears at the trunk, but gradually it covers your whole body as well as the soles of your feet and palms of your hand. They may not be itchy but have a wart-like appearance. At this stage, it may cause hair loss, muscle ache, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or a sore throat. 



Latent syphilis- if you do not get treatment for syphilis at early stages, it may turn into latent syphilis and may remain silently in your body for many years.



Tertiary syphilis- latent syphilis if also left untreated can lead to tertiary syphilis- the stage when it causes neurological and other complications. At this stage, it may damage your bones, brain, liver, joints, heart, and blood vessels. 


Causes


Syphilis is a bacterial infection that occurs due to a bacteria known as Treponema palladium. It can spread through sexual contact or close contact, person to person via physical touch upon direct contact with the sores. 



Treatment 


To treat syphilis, antibiotics are given as it is a bacterial infection. Often syphilis is hard to diagnose. But once diagnosed, it should be treated as soon as possible. Otherwise, it can lead to complications. 



Risk factors 


Syphilis can spread from one person to another. Sexually active people can get it. Almost always, they do spread during intercourse. The risk of getting them increases when;


  • You have had unprotected sex with multiple partners

  • You have had another sexually transmitted infection

  • You have had sex with a partner whose sexual history you don't know

  • If you become sexually active at a young age

  • Having a compromised immune system, such as from HIV or drugs from an organ transplant


Conclusion 


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. Sexually transmitted diseases do not always cause symptoms. It may be possible that your partner seems healthy and has no signs and symptoms. They may not even know about their health condition. But they can still transmit it to you through anal, vaginal, or oral sex.


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