Syphilis is a disease which is transmitted among people during sexual intercourse. The cause of this disease is a certain bacterium called Treponema palladium. This bacterium is otherwise known as the Pox or the Great Imitator. The main reason why it is known under these names is because it is not uncommon for it to mimic the symptoms of certain other diseases. Another reason is because it is often undiagnosed.
What is it and what you should know about it
According to the data, in the year 2006 there were more than 36,000 cases of syphilis in the United States alone. In comparison to 2005, there was an increase of almost 12%. Almost 10,000 of these cases were reported to be of primary and secondary syphilis. The data also proves that most people who were diagnosed with it were aged between 20 and 39. However, the incidence was highest in males aged between 20 and 24 and 35 and 39. The data also shows an increase of syphilis in newborns in 2006 compared to 2005. It is also important to know that 64% of these reported cases were among men who have sex with men.
According to the doctors, syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with a syphilis sore. In almost all cases these sores are seen on the external genitals, vagina, anus or in the rectum. It is not that common for the sores to occur on the lips and in the mouth but that happens as well. The bacterium passes from one person to another during vaginal, anal or oral sex. A pregnant woman diagnosed with syphilis can pass it on to her baby. There are a lot of those who believe that syphilis can be transmitted through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs or shared clothing but that is not true.
Symptoms and stages
Symptoms and signs of syphilis are not easily noticeable and that is why it is not uncommon for a person to be infected with the disease but not be aware of it for a lot of time, in some cases even for several years. Syphilis needs to be treated in order for certain complications to be avoided. It is a known fact that syphilis is transmitted due to sores but the doctors are not always able to recognize them. This is one of the main reasons why a person may transmit the disease.
In almost all cases of primary stage of syphilis, a person has only one sore. A person may have more than one but these cases are quite rare. The time since a person was infected and the first symptom occurred usually lasts for about 21 days. According to the experts, it ranges between 10 and 90 days. At this stage the sore looks firm, round and causes no pain. The sore appear in place where syphilis has entered the body. The sore will heal on its own without treatment but it is important to know that without proper treatment it can advance to the secondary stage.
The main characteristics of a secondary stage are skin rash and mucous membrane lesions. The rash is rarely seen in just one place on the body and it rarely causes itchiness. In most cases the rash occurs when the sores begin to disappear. The most commonly affected places of rash are palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Apart from the rashes, a person may also experience fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue. Even though these signs will disappear on their own, proper treatment is needed at this stage in order for the infection not to progress to the latent and late stages.
Once the secondary stage is over, the latent stage begins. The infection will remain in the body if a person does not receive proper treatment. Even though no signs may be seen, the infection will remain. It is not uncommon for this stage to last for lots of years. According to the data, late stages occur in 15% of all people diagnosed with syphilis. A person who is in late stage of syphilis may experience damage to the internal organs such as brain, nerves, eyes, blood vessels, liver, bones and even heart. It is important for this stage to be treated because it can cause death. Signs of late stage of syphilis are numbness, paralysis, gradual blindness and dementia.
Easy to treat
It is best if syphilis is diagnosed in its early stages because it is easiest to treat then. A person who had syphilis for no more than a year will be treated with a single shot of penicillin. Those who had it for more than that time are in need of several doses. It is important to know that no home remedy or over the counter drug can cure this disease. The injection will kill the bacteria but it will not repair the damage which already occurred due to the disease. A person who is at risk of STDs should get regular screenings done.