Syphilis is sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum. This disease can be passed to another person through kissing or close physical contact. The infected person is often unaware of the disease and unknowingly passes it on to his or her sexual partner.
The sexual behaviors that spreads syphilis can also spread other STD’s like .HIVs.
Stages of disease
The symptoms of syphilis develop in three stages, described below.
- Stage 1 (Primary syphilis) – Symptoms of syphilis begin with a painless but highly infectious sore on the genitals or sometimes around the mouth. If somebody else comes into close contact with the sore, typically during sexual contact, they can also become infected. The sore lasts two to six weeks before disappearing.
- Stage 2 (Secondary syphilis) – Secondary symptoms, such as a skin rash and sore throat develop. These symptoms may disappear within a few weeks, after which person may experience a latent (hidden) phase with no symptoms, which can last for years. After this, syphilis can progress to its third, most dangerous stage.
- Stage 3 (Tertiary syphilis) – Around a third of people who are not treated for syphilis will develop tertiary syphilis. At this stage, it can cause serious damage to the body
Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum.
The bacteria can enter one’s body if he/she have close contact with an infected sore, normally during vaginal, anal or oral sex or by sharing sex toys.
The initial symptoms of syphilis can appear any time from 10 days to three months after one have been exposed to the infection.
The most common symptom is the appearance of a small, painless sore or ulcer (called chancre). The sore will appear on the part of body where the infection was transmitted, typically the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, tongue or lips. Most people only have one sore, but some people can have more.
The symptoms of secondary syphilis will begin a few weeks after the disappearance of the sore.
Common symptoms include:
- A non-itchy skin rash appearing anywhere on the body, but commonly on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- Swollen lymph glands
Syphilis will then move into its latent (hidden) phase, where one will experience no symptoms, even though person remains infected. Latent syphilis can still be passed on during the first year of this stage of the condition, usually through sexual or close physical contact. However, after a couple of years, one cannot pass the infection to others, even though he/she remain infected.
The symptoms of tertiary syphilis can begin years or even decades after initial infection. Around a third of people who are not treated for syphilis develop serious symptoms at this stage.
The doctor will examine genitals. For men, it involves examining the penis, foreskin and urethra (the hole at the end of the penis where urine comes out). For women, it involves an internal examination of the vagina. Both men and women may also have their anus examined.
If one is infected with syphilis, then his/ her body produces antibodies (proteins released as part of immune response) against the syphilis bacteria.
Therefore, one way to determine whether one have syphilis is to have a sample of blood tested for the presence of these antibodies.
Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test (VDRL):
The VDRL test is a screening test for syphilis. It measures substances, called antibodies, that body may produce if a person comes in contact with the bacteria that causes syphilis. This bacteria is called Treponema pallidum.
If sores are present, a swab (like a cotton bud) will be used to take a small sample of fluid from the sore. This is then either looked at under a microscope in the clinic or sent to a laboratory for examination.
how to Treatment
Penicillin, an antibiotic, injected into the muscle, is the best treatment for syphilis. If someone is allergic to penicillin, then healthcare provider may give another antibiotic to take by mouth.
In a later stage of disease, more doses of antibiotics will be needed.
Prevention refers to practices done to prevent the spread of syphilis. Practices may be done by individuals to protect their own health: