Syphilis is a very old disease caused by a bacterium. Transmission is mainly during vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact. Also an infected pregnant woman can pass the disease to the unborn child- the bacteria pass through the placenta to the child in the womb. Such infection of the baby could lead to still birth, premature delivery or low birth weight. Sometimes the infected baby maybe born without any problem but if untreated may later develop serious problems like deafness, blindness due to cataract, epileptic attacks etc.
Syphilis has three stages:-primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary stage can be a little sore on the penis or lip or cervix; this may heal spontaneously after a few weeks. The illness then resurfaces under a year as the secondary stage with rash all over the body, sores in the mouth and other features. All these features can disappear spontaneously forever or the disease may reappear in about ten years as the tertiary stage with devastating effects.
1. What Causes Syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by a bacterium called TreponemaPallidium. It is a delicate bacterium that cannot withstand heat, it is killed by disinfectants, soap/water and refrigeration beyond three days. However it can survive being frozen for several years.
2. How Does Syphilis Spread?
The disease spreads from person to person from the infected sore on the penis, inside the vagina and the mouth. The bacteria are also present in the saliva, semen, vaginal discharge and blood.
Thus, spread can be through sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal or rectal), kissing and other forms of foreplay. The bacteria easily penetrate the skin and the inside lining of the mouth, vagina and anus.
An infected pregnant woman can pass the disease to the unborn child- the bacteria pass through the placenta to the child in the womb.
Also the disease can spread through the transfusion of infected blood.
Finally the disease can be contracted by accidental contact by care-giver or other close contact of an infected person touching infected materials or sore.
3. What Can Put You at Risk?
Frequent change of sexual partners, promiscuity, poor personal hygiene. Men are more at risk than women.
4. When Do You Suspect You May Have Syphilis?
You should see a doctor if you have a painless sore on your penis, lips, anus or vagina.
Also a generalized painless, non-itchy rash is suspect.
5. What to do if you suspect you have Syphilis.
See a doctor if you suspect you may have syphilis.
6. Possible Complications of Syphilis
Syphilis (secondary and tertiary ) affects several organs in the body; the bones, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels, skin, joints, brain and nerves.
a. Avoidance of multiple sexual partners,
b. Use of condom with high risk partners (sex workers, promiscuous partners).
c. Screening of all pregnant women.
d. Personal Hygiene