Caused by the spirochetal bacterium Treponema pallidum, syphilis is a bacterial infection that is most often spread from one person to another via sexual contact and it is, therefore, counted among the various sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, syphilis can also be transmitted congenitally from mother to child during gestation in the mother’s womb or during the process of birthing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syphilis has been on the rise throughout the world but most particularly in the United States since 2000. Also according to the CDCP, syphilis has been known to affect sexually active individuals of all ages, all genders and all ethnicities but it is most prevalent among young homosexual African-American men than any other group.
All through the ages, syphilis has been so widespread, so dreaded and so demonized that it’s appeared in countless pieces of literature (scientific journals, poetry and prose) and in the fine arts throughout the world.
Stages of Syphilis Symptoms
Syphilis is a complex disease that goes through a series of distinct yet overlapping four stages:
1. Primary Syphilis.
Roughly around ten to ninety days after exposure to the disease, a lesion called a chancre develops at the point of contact which is usually on the genitals but it can also appear in other parts of the body that had made the contract (mouth, fingers, anus, etc.)
The chancre is a painless ulceration which can last for up to six weeks and will disappear without medical intervention. However, the lymph nodes will begin to swell and remain swollen for the duration of the disease.
2. Secondary Syphilis.
Patients are most contagious during the secondary syphilis stage which appears six to eight weeks after Primary Syphilis.
Rashes may emerge on the chest, back, arms and legs as well as on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Such rashes are usually red or pink, symmetrical and do not cause irritation or itching.
White lesions known as condylomata lata, flat pale rashes and mucous patches may also show up in the genital areas and the mouth.
Other common symptoms that also materialize are fever, sore throat, spontaneous weight loss, headaches, rigidity of the neck (meningusmus) and general feeling of illness. In very rare cases, additional symptoms or complications such as meningitis, hepatitis, arthritis and others may develop.
3. Latent Syphilis.
Is a stage which can last for 24 months or longer and it may show no symptoms or clinical evidence of the disease. Although latent syphilis patients are still infectious during this stage the intensity of the infection is not quite as powerful as it had been during the first two stages (the Primary and Secondary).
4. Tertiary Syphilis.
Tertiary syphilis can last for up to 20 years from the time of initial contact and it is characterized by the development of chronic little inflamed tumors which are called granulomas and they may appear anywhere in the body.
Also during tertiary syphilis, a degeneration of the joints may occur and it’s known as the neuropathic joint disease.
Unlike during the pre-penicillin eras in which victims of syphilis would most like die of the disease and its complications, syphilis is easily treatable today. And the most effective course of treatment of the disease is a series of antibiotics such as penicillin which are usually administered via intramuscular injections.
When left untreated or to run through its own natural process, however, syphilis can cause permanent damage to the heart, the aorta, the brain, the nerves, the joints, the liver, the eyes and the bones, and such damages can lead to death.
Syphilis can be cured with penicillin antibiotic treatment. If you suspect your symptoms are due to a syphilis infection, seek medical attention and get tested immediately. Do not spread it.