Syphilis is well-known to be a sexually transmitted disease which presents with symptoms that are common as witnessed in other related diseases. Syphilis is caused by the pathogen, Treponema pallidum, and can be spread through direct contact of a broken skin with an infectious lesion especially through sexual activities.
As far as the spread of syphilis is concerned, men are more susceptible to the disease than women. Presently, men who have sex with men are the highest risk population among males. Teenagers and young adults in both male and female populations are more prone to get infected with syphilis than older adults. Babies can get infected through their mothers while in the womb or during birth. Be that as it may, syphilis can be cured easily when detected in time through screening. In fact, it is said that a physician who knows syphilis knows medicine.
Stages of Syphilis
This sexually transmitted disease syphilis develops and progresses in 4 stages. The earliest stages of development present with mild symptoms that are not quite special to the disease. As the disease progresses to later stages, symptoms are rarely seen.
The 4 stages are:
Here, there is the appearance of a single sore at the site of entry of Treponema pallidum. The sore is known as a chancre. However, there may be more than a single sore appearance. Usually, the chancre is firm, round, and produces no pain when touched. If a person got infected as a recipient while having vaginal or anal sex, the sore/s may appear on the vagina or anus, respectively. The penis is another site for syphilitic sore/s where a person gets infected via penile insertion or penetration.
Luckily, the chancre can heal within 3 to 6 weeks after the first appearance, even without treatment. It is recommended that a person gets treated at this stage for the infection not to progress into other ugly stages.
Primary syphilis progresses into the secondary stage when an infected person does not get treated on time. In this stage, there is the appearance of rashes and/or wounds on the skin and in the mouth, vagina, anus, and penis. An uninfected person can get infected even though only oral sex happened with an infected person.
These rashes or wounds can affect many areas of the body, and may break out as the primary chancre is healing or show up weeks after the chancre has healed. One can detect syphilis through the appearance of these rashes. They look rough, and are colored red or reddish brown. They spot the palms of the hands and the plantar of the feet (bottoms of the feet).
Sometimes, they are so faint that they are hardly noticed. The rashes could be accompanied by
- a headache, fever,
- swollen lymph glands,
- weight loss,
- a sore throat,
- aches in the muscle, and
Just like the primary stage, these symptoms can resolve with or without treatment.
This is the last stage of syphilis with noticeable symptoms. At the end of the secondary stage, the latent stage of syphilis shows up if no medical attention is sought.
This is the stage where the disease is not active and is showing no symptoms. The disease appears hidden, yet, it can still be spread from one person to another. An infected person can house syphilis for long if no treatment is given. Latent stage of syphilis can be early or late. Early latent syphilis occurs where the infection took place within the past one year or 12 months. Late latent syphilis is that where the infection occurred more than a year past or more than 12 months. Latent syphilis then develops into tertiary syphilis.
Up to 15-30% of infected persons who do not get treated for syphilis experience tertiary syphilis. This happens 10 to 30 years after the appearance of the first syphilitic sore. Syphilis at its tertiary stage can affect many organs in different parts of the body including the heart, the brain, the blood vessels, the eyes, and the spinal cord. This is the terminal stage of the disease and it can result to death.
Neurosyphilis is one of the complications of tertiary syphilis. It occurs when syphilis spreads to the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of neurosyphilis include an intractable headache, paralysis, difficulty in coordinating movements that involve the muscle, and dementia.
At the tertiary stage of syphilis, treatment can be given which may cure the infection. Nevertheless, damages suffered from the disease cannot be undone simply by taking antibiotics. Other forms of treatment that involve supportive care and surgery will have to be added.
Early detection of syphilis makes treatment plan efficacious. It pays to get screened and tested regularly when you are at risk or engage in risky activities that can expose you to hepatitis C infection.