Syphilis is one of the sexually transmitted diseases. The culprit of the infection is Treponema pallidum. This spirochetal bacterium can be spread only by sexual intercourse with the infected person. Still the infection can be passed from mother onto the unborn baby and this from of syphilis is called congenital syphilis. Blood transfusion as a possible way of transmission is eradicated as the blood taken from donors is thoroughly examined prior the further distribution.
The disease develops through four stages hence the symptoms vary according to the very stage. The goal is to set the diagnosis of syphilis in an early stage of the disease. If not the consequences of later stages may be permanent and quite severe.
The incubation after the exposure lasts approximately two or three weeks. The disease starts with specific skin changes called chancres. There can be one, two or even more of these changes present. In men the chancre forms on the penis, scrotum near anus or in the mouth. In women predilection places include vagina, anus and oral cavity. The skin changes are painless and vanish on their own within several weeks. Still their disappearance does not mean that the infection has withdrawn. On contrary, the agent is still in the body and if not treated continues to attack other body compartments.
In the following phase of the disease which occurs within a period of one to six months after the exposure the patient is most contagious. This stage presents with skin rash. It can affect whole of the body with the predominance of palms and soles. Apart from skin rash specific white patches develop as well. General symptoms of infection such as fever is a loss of appetite and tiredness are regularly present. The regional lymph nodes are enlarged. Additional symptoms include headaches and abrupt hair and/ or weight loss. Even these symptoms may disappear spontaneously leading to further stages of the disease.
Latent syphilis presents with no symptoms at all and the infection with Treponema pallidum may be only identified by blood tests. This stage may last permanently without any further progression and it can lead to final stage of the disease called tertiary syphilis.
This final stage of the disease may occur within two to twenty years after the primary infection. The bacteria which have been multiplying over the years have now affected the entire body leaving the majority of organs damaged. Lesions are present in nervous tissue, skin, liver, heart and arteries. According to their presence brain lesions can lead to different neurological conditions. Heart and large vessels are damaged as well. Large nodules also known as gummas are present in the entire body. The person can end up deaf, blind and there are even cases of lethal outcome.