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Syphilis: Information and Facts

Syphilis is a form of sexually transmitted disease that can result in serious health conditions if it is not given prompt treatment. It can make a person more susceptible to the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which can cause AIDS.


Symptoms

The symptoms of syphilis may not show for several years after contraction. There are altogether four stages of syphilis, and the first stage may begin anytime between ten days and three months after a person is exposed to disease. A little sore that does not cause pain will develop on the genital, lips, tongue, or rectum, but it is not uncommon that multiple sores appear too. The lymph nodes at the groin will also become larger. The second stage usually occurs around two to ten weeks after symptoms start to show. At this stage, the infected person will experience skin rash or reddish sores that are as of the same size as a penny, fatigue and discomfort, fever, sore throat, aching and soreness, sores on the genital or mouth that resemble warts, and swelling of the lymph glands. The next stage is the latent stage, where there will be an absence of symptoms. The disease may go away at this stage, or it can move on to the tertiary stage. It is known that 15% to 30% of those who are not treated for syphilis infection will develop tertiary complications, which include uncoordinated movements of muscles, numbness, paralysis, dementia, and blindness.


Diagnosis

Those who have a sexual lifestyle that exposes them to higher risk of contracting syphilis should be tested for the disease regularly. If syphilis symptoms such as sores or rashes are showing in the genital area, a person should seek medical advice. Syphilis is usually diagnosed through recognition of symptoms, blood tests, or identification of syphilis bacteria through the microscope.


Treatment

Syphilis at the early stage can be easily treated with penicillin. Single doses of benzathine penicillin G 2.4 million units are used to treat syphilis in the early, secondary, and early latent stages, while late latent and tertiary stages of syphilis require benzathine penicillin G 7.2 million units, which is equal to three single doses. Those who are allergic to penicillin can be desensitized before penicillin is administered.


Effects of Syphilis in Pregnant Women

Pregnant women who are infected with syphilis will pass the disease to their unborn babies. The babies will then develop congenital syphilis, and symptoms will begin to show when they are three months to two years old. Early symptoms include rashes, skin sores, runny nose, fever, yellow skin, anemia, swollen spleen and liver, and umbilical cord infection. If it goes untreated, serious health problems may occur, and these include tooth abnormalities, deafness, deformities, seizures, developmental problems, and even death.


Prevention

The best way to prevent syphilis is to avoid sex or have monogamous sex with an uninfected partner. Using a latex condom during sexual intercourse is another effective way to prevent syphilis. Try to find out a sex partner’s history of sexually transmitted disease, and do not use alcohol and drugs excessively, because these will lead to risky sexual practices.

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