Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a subspecies of the bacteria Treponema pallidum. This bacteria is passed on via sexual contact (usually oral, anal and virginal sex) or via mother to fetus during pregnancy or birth. Syphilis has four different stages known as; primary, secondary, latent and tertiary, and these stages have different symptoms. The initial symptom is usually a painless skin ulcer that occurs at the point of contact with the bacteria. As the disease progresses a rash may occur on the trunk and extremities of the body, which sometimes forms lesions. Other symptoms at this stage may include fever, sore throat, weight loss, headache, hair loss and fatigue. Without treatment the disease can also cause later problems such as infection of the central nervous system, which can cause a number of serious problems. These later problems usually occur 4-46 years after initial infection. Let’s take a look at the most common ways of preventing and treating this potentially serious condition.
Prevention of syphilis
There is no vaccine for syphilis so the only completely effective prevention for the disease is to abstain from sexual contact. The use of a condom is known to reduce the risk of infection, but it does not completely remove the risk. Those that test positive for the disease will need to be promptly treated and will be encouraged to speak to their sexual partners about being tested.
What is the treatment for syphilis?
Fortunately, effective treatment for the disease is available. Antibiotics are used to treat the condition and commonly a single dose of penicillin G or azithromycin is all that is required to treat the condition in the early stages. In long term untreated infections a long term and large dose of intravenous penicillin is needed. This treatment can last from 10 days to three weeks. Unfortunately, at this stage the damage caused by the disease cannot be reversed, but further damage can be prevented with the course of antibiotics.
Did you know?
Seeking treatment for syphilis is extremely important. Long term untreated syphilis can lead to blindness, mental instability, heart problems, organ damage, and even death. Untreated syphillis has a death rate between 8 and 58%.