What is syphilis?
It’s contagious, it can be mainly transmitted through sexual activity - oral, anal or vaginal sex - and pregnant women carrying this Sexually Transmitted Illness (STI) can transmit it to their unborn child. I’m talking about syphilis chomas.
What exactly is syphilis and how is it spread?
Syphillis (pronounced SIF – uh – luhss) is an STI caused by bacteria called Treponema Pallidum which is a very small, spiral-shaped organism that infects a person by digging into moist mucous membranes of the penis/vagina or the mouth. It can be directly transmitted during vaginal, oral or anal sex. An infected person can develop sores on the genitals, the rectum, anus, in the mouth and on the lips.
Signs and symptoms - Stages of Syphilis
There are three stages of this STI.
- First/primary stage
This is when you will notice small and painless round sores. This may range from 10 – 90 days after infection. These sores are usually found where the bacteria entered the body. So if you have sores in your genital area, anus, rectum or mouth, then that’s where you were initially infected. The sores, at this stage, may heal on their own after a few weeks of infection. But, if the infected person does not get treatment then the infection will progress to the second stage.
- Second stage
A skin rash may develop across the body, including the soles/bottom of the feet or the palms of the hands. The sores may become painful but they won’t be itchy.
- Latent stage
This is syphilis that, if left untreated, will not develop any obvious symptoms and is non-infectious. This follows the second stage. So the bacteria will stay inactive and may progress to the third stage.
- Third stage
If the person still doesn’t go for treatment, then other symptoms may develop. These include:
- Gradual loss of eyesight which may eventually lead to blindness
- Swollen glands
- Mental illness
It is possible to be infected with this STI and never be aware that you are infected. But this is normally in the first stage. Once the second stage has progressed that’s when it becomes more obvious that you may be infected with syphilis.
Treatment and Prevention
The earlier you get treatment, the easier it is to cure the STI. If you have sores that you are not clear about, visit your local clinic. If a person has been infected with syphilis within less than a year, then an antibiotic treatment can be used. If infection occurred longer than a year, then the person may be required to get additional treatment. Having syphilis once doesn’t mean that you can’t be infected again. Always use a condom to prevent spreading, or being infected by, syphilis.
What happens if left untreated?
If a person does not get treatment for syphilis, then they may experience serious complications. The bacteria may spread all through the body and infect main organs such as the brain (brain damage) and the heart (heart attack). Untreated syphilis in a pregnant woman can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects.
The connection between syphilis and HIV
A person infected with syphilis is at a higher risk of being infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This is because the sores normally develop on the genital areas, anus and mouth and they may bleed easily in those areas. This increases the chance of being infected with HIV because the sores make HIV easier to enter your body during sex.
The best way to prevent infection is to learn how to best protect yourself. Abstinence is one way to prevent infection. However, if you decide to have sex, then always use a condom every time you have sex chomas. If there are any sores then avoid having sex altogether until treatment is complete.
Did you find this article helpful? Yes No