Syphilis: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

The sexually transmitted disease known as syphilis has three major stages of infection and one inactive or latent stage. The first stage of a syphilis infection manifests itself typically as the formation of a small ulcer or chancre on the site of the infection. This chancre typically develops twenty-one days after infection, though it could appear as as soon as ten to twenty days, or later, some twenty-two to ninety days after being infected. Once the chancre is evident at any set time from ten to ninety days, the disease becomes highly infectious, and any contact with it will almost invariably result in an infection.

One can become infected by coming into contact with ulcer or spirochetes-rich chancre. Even the use of condoms may not be able to prevent infection if the chancre is outside of the female’s vagina, or is located in the male’s scrotum. If the ulcer is located in the mouth, even a simple kiss is enough for one to become infected. This chancre will eventually disappear after three to six weeks, but may reappear at a later time as secondary syphilis if treatment was not received or given.

Though an initial infection may heal on its own in most cases, especially in women, but 25% of these cases will progress to the secondary stage of syphilis. This generally develops after a couple of weeks or after a month, and can last as long six weeks. Because of the systemic nature of the secondary stage of syphilis, it affects more organs. Typical symptoms of this secondary stage include skin rashes on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. They are not typically itch, and sometimes they are even obscure.

Other manifested symptoms of this secondary stage include hair loss, white patches on the skin, such as on the mouth, nose, or vagina, sore throat, as well as headache and fever. Lesions that look like genital warts may also appear on the genital area. These warts, as well as the rashes are highly contagious. Since the rashes usually appear on the palm of the hand, even something as slight as a handshake can transmit the infection to another person.

After the second stage, syphilis will enter the latent, or symptom free stage. This stage lasts for twenty or more years, but even if an infected person has not gone through the latent stage, one may still progress to the third and final stage. This is the stage of the disease in which syphilis will cease to become infectious, but since it is systemic, a plethora of complications will arise.

The methods for treating syphilis vary according to the stage or progress of the disease, and the clinical manifestations shown. A very effective way of curing syphilis involves the intramuscular injection of penicillin. This drug is able to cure not just the primary, but even the tertiary stage of the disease. In order for it to be effective however, constant and rigorous treatment is necessary. In cases of penicillin allergies, other alternative drugs, just like oral doxycycline or tetracycline may be used. Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, Achromycin, among others are some of the drugs used for syphilis treatment.

Pregnant ladies who are infected with syphilis can pass on the disease to the fetus. Penicillin is one of the best known cures because it is the only antibiotic which can pass through the placental barrier, and thus rid the fetus of the infection. If left untreated, the child can be born blind, or it can die within the womb.

Syphilis is not something to be easily ignored. If you think you are infected with syphilis, or if you are showing some signs and symptoms, it is important that you seek out medical help as soon as possible.

Syphilis—a disease that needs rigorous attention, especially in cases of infection in women. Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of this dangerous disease.

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