Sex is all fun and games until you carelessly drop your safety guard down and end up with a sexually transmitted infection (STI)! While HIV, genital herpes and chlamydia are some of the more seriously-discussed venereal diseases, we’re here to talk about an STI often taken very lightly–syphilis. People have been getting, treating, and surviving it for hundreds of years and presently it can be cured easily with a single shot of penicillin. In fact, at one point, the syphilis cases went down to an extent that it was thought it could be eradicated. But guess what? According to the data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), syphilis is on the rise again. That’s why we’re here to talk about it in detail and make you aware of this STI. Here’s everything you need to know:
What Is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection cause by the spread of bacterium Treponema pallidum through direct contact with the infected site–especially during a sexual activity. Without adequate treatment, it can cause major health effects and needs to be taken seriously.
Causes Of Syphilis
Syphilis is transmitted via direct contact with syphilitic chancres or sores that often develop in the mouth, penis, vagina or the anus of the infected person. This infection primarily spreads sexually during oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or direct genital-to-genital contact. Additionally, it can also be transmitted through blood transmission, although the chances are meek. Pregnant women with untreated syphilis can also pass on the infection to their babies (congenital syphilis). Contrary to popular belief, syphilis doesn’t spread by using public washrooms or sharing clothes or utensils as this bacteria can’t survive outside the human body for very long.
Symptoms Of Syphilis
A painless sore in the mouth, penis, vagina or anus is the most common sign of syphilis. However, its symptoms can vary depending on the stage of this disease one is at. So let’s look at the four different stages of syphilis and understand the symptoms in each stage.
Stage 1: Primary Stage
The primary stage of syphilis occurs about three-four weeks post contracting the bacteria. It starts with the appearance of a small, round, painless sore called a chancre at the site of the bacteria’s entry. Sometimes, a chancre isn’t quite noticeable and may (or may not) disappear after two-six weeks with slight swelling being the only symptom.
Stage 2: Secondary Syphilis
In the second stage of syphilis, the chancre and swelling can be accompanied by other symptoms such as non-itchy rashes on the palms and soles or anywhere else on the body. One may experience other signs such as headaches, fatigue, fever, weight loss, hair loss, and aching joints too at this stage. These symptoms can make you confuse syphilis with other conditions that have similar symptoms like psoriasis. However, if proper treatment isn’t received, the bacteria will remain in the body even if the symptoms go away on their own.
Stage 3: Latent Syphilis
If proper treatment is not taken during the first two stages of syphilis, the bacteria may remain in the body despite the symptoms disappearing on their own. Without any noticeable symptoms, this stage could last for years before progressing to tertiary syphilis, i.e., the fourth stage of syphilis.
Stage 4: Tertiary Syphilis
Tertiary syphilis is the last stage of this STI and can occur even decades after the infection first strikes you. This stage is often a result of undiagnosed syphilis during its initial stages or due to latent symptoms. It can be life-threatening with a set of fatal outcomes like blindness, loss of hearing, mental health conditions, memory loss, destruction of soft bone tissue, heart diseases, neurological disorders, and infection of the brain or spinal cord.
Although syphilis can be treated with a single shot of penicillin, it shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can develop into a life-threatening condition if left untreated. Here’s how you can prevent it from happening in the first place:
Practice Safe Sex
Practicing safe sex is the best way to keep syphilis and other STIs at bay. Always use a condom during sex–especially with a new partner. Use a dental dam or a condom even during oral sex. Avoid sharing sex toys and always wash them thoroughly before using.
Regular Medical Screenings
Since syphilis can sometimes have latent symptoms or signs that may resemble other health conditions, it is best to go for regular medical screenings–especially if you have sex with a new or multiple partners. Remember, an early detection can save you a lot of trouble.
Avoid Sharing Needles
During blood tests, regular vaccinations and blood transfusions, always ensure that your medical practitioner is using a fresh needle out of a sealed pack.
Folks, syphilis can be quite sneaky sometimes and show no symptoms at all despite being present in the body. So pay close attention to any changes in your body and get regular medical screenings to be safe. Here’s to safe sex and good health. Cheers!
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