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Q: What is a syphilis?

It is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection, caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It is spread by direct contact with a syphilitic sore through skin and mucous membranes such as lips, mouth, vagina, anus or rectum. Usually, this occurs during oral, anal, or vaginal sexual activity. Rarely, syphilis can spread due to kissing too.

It can also spread from mother to baby during pregnancy which may lead to stillbirth or low birth weight baby. And if it is left untreated, infant with syphilis can develop cataracts, deafness, or seizures. In some cases, infants may die from the disease.
Syphilis | Drsafehands

Q: What are the symptoms of Syphilis?

It is graded by stages depending on symptoms associated. It is most infectious in the first two stages.

  1. Primary/ First Stage: In this stage there is a single chancre/sore/ulcer which is a firm, non-itchy and painless which may easily go unnoticed. You may find multiple sores also. The sore lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not you receive treatment. Even though the sore goes away, you must still receive treatment so your infection does not move to the next stage.

  2. Secondary/ second stage: In this stage there is sore throat and non itchy rashes in skin mostly found on palms and soles or anywhere on the body.
    Other symptoms:Headaches,Swollen Lymph Glands, Fatigue, Fever, Weight Loss,Hair Loss,Aching Joints,etc
    These all symptoms go away whether or not you receive treatment. However, without treatment you'll still be infected.

  3. Latent/third stage: It is the hidden stage. You won't have any noticeable symptoms at this stage. The secondary symptoms can reappear, or you could remain in this stage for years before progressing to tertiary syphilis.

  4. Tertiary/ last stage : It can be life-threatening.
    Other outcomes may include:
    • Blindness
    • Deafness
    • Memory loss
    • Destruction of soft tissue and bone
    • Mental illness
    • Heart disease
    • Neurosyphilis, which is an infection of the brain or spinal cord
    • Neurological disorders, such as stroke or meningitis

Diagnosis :

For definitive diagnosis the infected person has to undergo the test which the doctor will advice for:
Some of those tests are :
  • EIA for anti-treponemal IgG
  • T. pallidum hemagglutination (TPHA) test
  • Fluorescent treponemal antibody-absorption test (FTA-abs)
  • Microhemagglutination test with T. pallidum antigen
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • VDRL test
  • Rapid plasma reagin test
  • Dark-field microscopy

Prognosis :

Syphilis infection can be easily managed in first and second stages by the administration of antibiotics which may control the further spreading . Prognosis of tertiary syphilis is less optimistic. However, in later stages, damage already done to organs is not reversible. People with syphilis are at higher risk of HIV.