Syphilis: a sexually transmitted disease
Syphilis is an infectious disease caused by a
pallidum. It is usually spread by sexual contact
or by kissing. Less frequently the bacterium is
transmitted through transfusion of infected blood or
from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or
After exposure and infection, the disease
develops in three stages, called primary, secondary and
tertiary (or late) syphilis. The primary stage of
syphilis is characterized by the occurrence of a single,
small skin sore, known as “chancre”, on the body’s area
where the bacterium has entered (genitals, mouth or
lips). The sore is not painful and usually heals without
treatment, although the infection remains.
Secondary syphilis begins two to ten weeks after
the sore has appeared and is characterized by symptoms
of non-itchy skin rashes on any part of the body,
swollen lymph nodes, fever, soreness and fatigue. These
symptoms may persist for a few weeks and then completely
disappear or may recur repeatedly for about one year.
If left untreated, syphilis progresses to a
latent stage with no symptoms, and can remain in that
stage lifelong. However, in some patients the latent
stage is followed, many years later, by the tertiary
stage of the disease, which is characterized by the
involvement of the brain, nerves, eyes, as well as the
cardio-circulatory and joint-muscle systems. Symptoms of
late syphilis usually include muscle uncoordination,
paralysis, gradual sight loss, dementia, blood vessel
inflammation and valvular heart disease. In addition,
one of the most worrying complications of syphilis is
HIV infection, since it has been shown that people
infected with syphilis bacterium are at a greatly
increased risk of getting HIV.
Fortunately syphilis is easy to cure, especially
when it is detected and treated in its earlier stages.
Penicillin (a bacteria-killing antibiotic) is the first
choice. For the treatment* of primary and secondary
syphilis, a single injection of penicillin is usually
enough to stop the disease from progressing, while
patients in the latent or tertiary stages usually
require additional injections of penicillin to get rid
of the disease. For people who are allergic to
penicillin, other effective antibiotics are available.
Just as any other sexually transmitted
disease, syphilis is highly preventable by regularly using latex condoms.
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from unexpected medical conditions that may appear you
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*Always seek professional medical advise from a
qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.