Overview

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection and treponema pallidum is the bacteria that causes it. Syphilis can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy, during intercourse, and by sharing needles and injecting equipment. Sharing meals, hugging, or using the same bathroom as someone with syphilis does not spread the disease. Syphilis can be difficult to detect. It is possible to have it for years without displaying any symptoms. But the earlier syphilis is identified, however, is better. Syphilis that is left untreated for a long time can compromise important organs such as the heart and brain. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but it's critical to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible since untreated syphilis can cause long-term health issues like disability, neurological damage, and even death


Syphilis Symptoms

This STD develops in four phases. The first two symptoms are often so mild that they go unnoticed. Syphilis has many stages with different symptoms. They develop as follows:

Primary Symptoms

  • At the infection site, painless sores form (mouth, anus, rectum, vagina, or penis). These are referred to as chancres.
  • The sores will heal on their own in 3 to 6 weeks, but syphilis can still be transmitted.
  • Medicine can easily treat and cure it.

Secondary Symptoms

  • Rashes on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet that are rough red or reddish-brown.
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Fever

These symptoms will go away, even if you don’t get treated. But if you’re not treated, your infection will get worse.

Latent Stage of Infection

The syphilis bacteria are still active in your body during this period, but there are no indications or symptoms of infection. Although people are not contagious at this point, syphilis can still impair the heart, brain, nerves, bones, and other organs. This stage might endure for a long time. This stage of the virus does not affect everyone who has syphilis. Some people will go into the tertiary stage.

Tertiary (Late)

When the symptoms from the second stage have faded, this stage begins. At this stage, syphilis isn't communicable, but the infection has begun to harm the organs. This may result in fatal consequences. The following are examples of tertiary syphilis symptoms:

  • Problems controlling muscle movements
  • Numbness
  • Vision problems (you may start going blind)
  • Dementia

Also, as part of normal treatment, all pregnant women should have a syphilis test during their prenatal consultations. If this test does not appear to be part of the initial prenatal blood panel, request it.

Get the best treatment for Syphilis from our Dermatologists at Medicover Hospitals.


Causes And Risks Factors

Treponema pallidum, a bacterium that causes syphilis, enters the body through tiny scratches or abrasions in the skin or mucous membranes, commonly during sexual activity. The illness is communicable throughout both its primary and secondary stages, when a rash may emerge on the torso, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and other parts of the body.


Risk

  • An unprotected sexual activity that involves oral, genital, or anal mucosa Sexual interaction with someone who has been diagnosed with syphilis
  • Sex with someone from a country or region where syphilis is common.
  • Previous syphilis, HIV infection, or other blood-borne diseases
  • Born to a mother who had contagious syphilis during pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted and other blood-borne illnesses can also be spread through anonymous sexual partners and drug abuse.

Complications

Syphilis can cause damage to the body if not treated. Syphilis raises the chance of contracting HIV and can create complications during pregnancy. Treatment can help prevent future harm, but it cannot cure or reverse existing damage.


Small bumps or tumour

Bumps (gummas) can appear on the skin, bones, liver, or any other organ in the late stages of syphilis. Gummas commonly go away following antimicrobial therapy.


Neurological problems

Syphilis can cause a number of problems with the nervous system, including

  • Stroke
  • Hearing loss
  • Meningitis
  • Dementia
  • Loss of pain and temperature sensations
  • Sexual dysfunction in men
  • Bladder incontinence
  • Headache
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Visual problems, blindness

The aorta, the body's main artery, and other blood vessels may bulge and enlarge as a result. Syphilis can cause heart valve damage.


HIV infection

Adults with syphilis or other genital sores are more likely to get HIV. Because syphilis lesions bleed freely, HIV can enter the bloodstream quickly during sexual activity.


Pregnancy and childbirth complications

If you're pregnant, you might infect the unborn child with syphilis. Congenital syphilis raises the chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of the infant within a few days of delivery.


Prevention

Syphilis can be prevented by taking the following steps:

  • Abstinence from sexual activity
  • Maintaining long-term monogamy with a spouse who is not infected with syphilis
  • Using a condom, which only protects against genital sores and not those that occur elsewhere on the body
  • Sharing sex toys should be avoided.
  • Abstinence from alcohol and medications that might lead to risky sexual behaviours

Having syphilis once does not imply a person is immune to it in the future. It is possible for a person to get syphilis again after therapy has effectively eradicated it from their body.


Diagnosis & Treatment

Before doing clinical tests to confirm syphilis, a doctor will perform a physical examination and inquire about a person's sexual history. If anyone suspects they have syphilis, see a doctor as soon as possible. One may also test at a local health facility if they wish. The tests include the following:

Blood tests:

Antibodies to the syphilis bacterium can be found in the blood for many years, therefore blood testing can reveal a current or previous infection

Bodily fluid:

During the initial or secondary stages of a chancre, a doctor can assess the fluid.

Cerebrospinal fluid:

This fluid is collected by a spinal tap and examined by a clinician to track the disease's impact on the neurological system

Darkfield microscopy:

Syphilis bacteria can be seen in fluid obtained from a skin sore or lymph node using darkfield microscopy.Any sexual partners must be informed if a person is diagnosed with syphilis. Their companions should be tested as well.


Treatment

Syphilis treatment can be effective, especially in the early stages. The treatment plan will be determined by the symptoms and the length of time the bacterium has been present. People with syphilis will often get an intramuscular injection of penicillin G benzathine during the primary, secondary, or tertiary stages.

  • Multiple injections at weekly intervals are required for tertiary syphilis.
  • To eradicate the germs from the central nervous system, neurosyphilis needs intravenous (IV) penicillin every 4 hours for 2 weeks.
  • Curing the infection can prevent additional harm to the body, allowing people to resume safe sexual practices. However, therapy will not be able to reverse any existing harm.
  • In the early stages of a penicillin allergy, people can occasionally utilise an alternate drug. Anyone with a penicillin allergy will be desensitised during pregnancy and in the tertiary phases to allow for a safe therapy.
  • Newborn newborns with syphilis should be treated with antibiotics immediately after birth.

Lifestyle Change and Self Care

Syphilis, like many other sexually transmitted illnesses, may be easily prevented or treated, and there are a few strategies to avoid passing it on to others.

  • Having intercourse with a single, consistent, and virus-free partner. Syphilis does not require sexual intercourse or ejaculation in order to propagate.
  • Condoms can help minimise the chance of contracting syphilis, but they can't completely eliminate it.
  • There is still a risk of infection from direct contact with the mouth (for people who have oral sex) or from the anus (those having anal intercourse). It is essential to use a condom during vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys that have been used by another person.

Do’s And Don’ts With Syphilis:

Syphilis is transmitted by sexual contact with a person who has the disease. It can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse. As a result, understanding how to have safer sex is critical. When having intercourse, using protection greatly reduces the risk of contracting an STD. However, following the prescribed dos and don'ts can help you prevent the disease's bad consequences. Some guidelines are as follows:

Do’s Don’ts
Use condoms and/or dental dams if you have sex.Have sexual contact with someone who has it.
Maintain high level of personal hygienePrefer sex without completing the treatment.
Get Tested for STDs if you see symptomsShare your personal products with others
Using the antibiotics prescribedStop medication without completing the course.
Tell your partner, about past and present sexual partners who may have Syphilis.Have multiple sex partners if you have symptoms.

Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover, we have the best team of Dermatologists and infectious disease doctors who work together to provide syphilis disease treatment with utmost precision. Our highly skilled team utilizes the latest medical equipment, diagnostic procedures and technologies to treat various types of dermatological conditions and ailments. For treating Syphilis, we adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to provide all-around care to the patients and attend to all of their medical needs at once for faster and sustained recovery.

Citations

https://www.emedicinehealth.com/syphilis/article_em.htm
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/syphilis/how-is-syphilis-prevented
https://www.news-medical.net/health/Syphilis-Prevention.aspx
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/syphilis
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/syphilis-treatment
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/syphilis/treatments/

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