Syphilis is a highly transmittable disease which is caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum and spread through sexual contact or contaminated needles. One is, generally, prone to the disease while having direct contact, during vaginal, anal or oral sex, with the person possessing syphilis sores which are present on the penis, vagina, and anus, in the rectum or on the lips and in the mouth. The syphilitic sores are known as chancres and even a pregnant woman having this disease can pass it on to the unborn child. The symptoms of syphilis develop in three stages – primary stage, secondary stage and latent stage.
During the primary stage, chancres (sores) appear which last 3 to 6 weeks. If they are not treated, the disease moves to the secondary stage, when skin rash develops on other parts of the body followed by fever, headache, and muscle ache. The latent stage is called the hidden stage when symptoms from first and second stages disappear, but the infection, still, persists in the body. If the disease remains untreated, it leads to late stage when it can affect other body organs leading to paralysis, nerve problems and other health problems. This can even result into death.
Here are some serious facts about Syphilis:
- The syphilis symptoms like sores on the body, fever, skin rash are quite the same as symptoms from other diseases. This is why, syphilis, is called the “great imitator”. Some people infected with the disease can have very less or no symptoms at all.
- A sexually active person is more likely to get syphilis. One can avoid having this disease by being in a long term relationship with a partner with negative syphilis test results. The other advisable fact is to use condoms while having sex as it helps in avoiding contact with a sore.
- Untreated pregnant women may give birth to infected babies without any symptoms of this disease but there are possibilities that babies develop grave problems such as cataracts, deafness, or can die within a few weeks. So, the babies must be treated immediately after birth.
- Many people are not even able to identify syphilis symptoms as the initial sore, that gets developed, is painless. If the sore is found inside the penis, rectum, vagina or mouth, it is not possible to see it even. So, this disease often goes unidentified in the first stage.
- People who have HIV/AIDS and syphilis are highly prone to getting neurosyphilis which is syphilis of the brain and spinal cord and is very dangerous.
- The doctors test for syphilis by taking blood sample. The fluid from the syphilis sore is also tested under a special microscope. These tests take place during the first two stages of syphilis.
- Syphilis can be treated at all stages, with the drug, Penicillin which acts as an antibiotic. If some people are allergic to penicillin, they may take other drugs during the first two stages. Pregnant women cannot use other drugs. Penicillin only prevents further damage to body organs but the harm, already done, is irreversible. One can get syphilis again after getting treated for once.
- There has been a significant increase in the number of cases of syphilis between 1980 and 2001, in the United States. This increase involved both males and females, all races, all regions in the U.S and all age groups (even adults over 60). According to the data, nearly 4, 00,000 people in the U.S and about 50 million people worldwide need to be treated for syphilis annually.
- The studies conducted in Latin America and in the U.S in 2002 reveal that unprotected sexual activities among lesbians, gay and bisexual men are resulting into increase in number of syphilis cases.
- After the crash of the Soviet Union, the sexual behaviour patterns got changed in Eastern Europe which led to 18-fold increase in reported cases of syphilis between 1993 and 1994. As per the latest statistics, men account for most of the syphilis cases with the maximum ones among men having sex with other men.