Syphilis is a highly contagious disease spread primarily by sexual activity, including oral and anal sex. Syphilis could spread by coming in direct oral or genital contact with an active sore. The bacteria could spread by kissing or sexual intercourse. Although this disease is spread from sores, the vast majority of those sores go unrecognized. The infected person is often unaware of the disease and unknowingly passes it on to his or her sexual partner.
Pregnant women with the disease could spread it to their baby. This disease, called congenital syphilis, can cause abnormalities or even death to the child. Syphilis cannot be spread by toilet seats, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bath tubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
Even if the symptoms aren’t active it’s important to get treatment for the disease. Syphilis could cause more damage if the disease goes untreated and advances.
Syphilis infection occurs in three distinct stages:
Early or primary syphilis: Sore could occur on the genitals, in or around the mouth somewhere between 10-90 days (average three weeks) after exposure. Even without treatment they heal without a scar within six weeks.
- • Sore are present only where the virus entered the body
- • Develop one sore or a group of sores
- • Sores are round, hard and painless
Secondary stage: The secondary stage last one to three months. It begins within six weeks to six months after exposure. Rashes with a different appearance may occur on other parts of the body, sometimes resembling rashes caused by other diseases.
- • Sores could be found on the genitals, anus or mouth
- • “Copper penny” rash, discolored spots may occur at the origin of the infection, rash on the soles of the feet or hands
- • Muscle cramps, headaches and lack of energy may occur.
- • Hair loss, swollen glands in the neck and aching when swallowing could occur
- • Moist warts on the groin
- • White patches inside the mouth, swollen lymph glands, fever and weight loss
These symptoms typically clear within a couple of months.
Latent syphilis/ Tertiary syphilis: This is where the infection lies dormant (inactive) without causing symptoms. The symptoms could remain dormant for as long as thirty years. This stage is referred to as tertiary syphilis.If the infection isn't treated, it may progress to a stage characterized by severe problems with the heart, brain, and nerves. If syphilis is treated during the early stages it’s usually cured without complications if antibiotics are taken.
- • Paralysis, not able to move a particular body part
- • Memory loss or dementia
- • Deafness or hearing loss
- • Severe damage to vital organ, which may result in death
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