Brochure: Syphilis What is syphilis: Syphilis is a highly infectious sexual transmitted disease, caused by a spiral twisted bacterium known as Treponema pallidum that affects many body organs and parts, including the genitals, brain, skin, and nervous tissue. It may cause long term complications or death if left untreated.
How is syphilis transmitted: Syphilis is mainly spread through sexual intercourse, including anal and oral sex. The disease may occasionally be transmitted through close bodily contact with a syphily sore: Sores may be located in the vagina, penis, rectum, lips, or the anus, expectant women with the disease may pass it to their unborn fetus. Syphilis cannot be transmitted through physical contact with eating utensils, shared clothing, bathtubs, swimming pools or toilet seats.
Signs and symptoms of syphilis: The signs and symptoms of syphilis are grouped into four stages as stated below:
Primary stage: This is the first stage of the disease may be characterized by single or multiple sores that are painless, round and firm in nature. The sores resemble the point of entry of the disease.
Secondary stage: One may have oral, anal or vaginal sores and skin rashes at the same time. This stage begins with with one or many rashes on the body. These rashes may appear several weeks after the primary sore is healed. The rash may appear as rough, red spots on the bottom of the feet or the palm of the hands. This does not necessarily itch and thus may go unnoticed. This may present together with other symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, patchy hair loss, weight loss, sore throat, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. Symptoms may disappear regardless of treatment or not. The infection will proceed to the latent stage without the right treatment.
Latent stages: The latent stage starts when the early signs and symptoms disappear. Without the right treatment one may continue to harbor the syphilis bacterium in their body for years without showing any signs and symptoms. Most individuals with untreated syphilis do not go to the late stage of the disease. However, when they proceed to the late stage, the disease is very serious.
Late stages: This may present after 10 to 30 years from the initial day of infection. The symptoms are severe and include paralysis, numbness, blindness, dementia and difficulty coordinating muscle movements. The disease may damage internal organs and may result in death.
Pathology of syphilis: The bacterium responsible for syphilis is called Treponema pallidum. For the transmission to take place there almost needs to be direct contact with the infectious sore. The bacterium quickly penetrates the mucous membrane and within a few hours, enters the blood and the lymphatic. The incubation period from the time of exposure is 3-6 weeks. The infection can easily spread to the central nervous system if left untreated and thus become complicated.
What factors predispose one to syphilis: Some of the risk factors include: being sexually active, having unprotected sex, having sex with multiple partners, men who have sex with other men and having HIV and AIDS
Prevention and treatment of syphilis: The best method to prevent one from acquiring syphilis is abstinence from sexual intercourse or have a monogamous sexual relations with a tested partner and one who is known to be uninfected. Consistent and correct use of condoms may reduce the chances of contracting syphilis, but only when the potential infectious site is protected. Getting tested on a regular basis and early treatment of the disease for those with multiple partners. Penicillin medications are used in the treatment of syphilis
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