Spotlight: Syphilis

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Some people hear about syphilis and they think about the past. After all, syphilis has been around for centuries with a cure having been produced less than 80 years ago. Most people might not think of this STD as a threat but as bacteria becomes more resistant to certain treatments, the infection is making a comeback across the U.S. Testing for syphilis during any STD check up is becoming more vital.

What is syphilis? Syphilis is a bacterial STD that can cause long-term complications and possible death if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent and late syphilis. It is spread through contact with a syphilitic sore during anal, oral, or vaginal sex. It can even be spread from an infected mother to her unborn child.

Although the majority of patients exhibit no symptoms, the first outward sign of syphilis can be is a small painless sore or sores on the infected area of the body. This is the primary stage and it can last 3 to 6 weeks. If the STD goes untreated during the primary stage it can enter into the secondary stage. In this stage, symptoms include a rash, fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue.Without treatment at this point, your infection could move to the latent or even late stages of syphilis. Symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include muscle movement issues, paralysis , numbness, blindness, and dementia. In the late stages of syphilis, the disease damages your internal organs and can result in death. Syphilis has been tied to numerous neurological disorders. There is currently no connection between syphilis and autism althought studies have been performed in search of a connection.

That’s a pretty serious end game for syphilis. However, there is plenty of hope should you receive a positive diagnosis. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. It is important to catch the infection early though to prevent any long term damage to your body. The best way to know if you have syphilis is to test for STDs regularly.

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Reviewed by Ramesh Subramani, MD, MBA, MPH

Article by Robert Francis Curtis

Robert studied at Columbia College Chicago. He has worked as a Care Adviser here at Analyte Health for a while and looks forward to spreading more information about sexual health.