Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium. This bacterium has an incubation period of two to four weeks, or even up to three months. The disease can be treated, but if left untreated, it may be dangerous to many systems of the body, such as the circulatory and nervous systems. Furthermore, an expectant mother with syphilis may transmit it to her unborn child, resulting in congenital syphilis.

Symptoms of Syphilis
The symptoms of syphilis are divided into three stages as follows:

Stage 1: Once infected, the site of the transmission, such as the external genital area, lips, tongue, tonsils, or nipples, will have small lesions that are two to four millimeters in size. They will then expand and get bigger until they break open into a large oval-shaped wound that is flat and hard. The wound appears clean and is hard to the touch. The lesions are usually painless. The infection then spreads to the lymph nodes in the groin, causing them to become swollen. If left untreated the wounds may heal on their own. There are often no other symptoms at this stage.
Stage 2: About two to three weeks after the first stage the infection affects the various lymph nodes of the body, such as behind the ears, in the groin and behind the knees, and enters the bloodstream and spreads to different parts of the body. This causes rashes to appear all over the body and may be known as the “blooming stage.” Unlike other diseases, in syphilis the rashes are also found on the palms of the hands and may not itch. The rash is often raised and there may be patches of dead skin due to these rashes. Other symptoms may include sore throat, body aches, and loss of all hair or in patches. A blood test would reveal a positive result for syphilis at this point. These symptoms may disappear without treatment, but the infection remains. Some patients may not experience any rashes at all, but may have fevers along with the aforementioned symptoms. Without treatment the infection will enter a resting state and remain hidden in the organs of the body. There may be no symptoms for years, with the exception of a positive blood test for the disease.
Stage 3: This is the final stage of the disease or the latent stage, and occurs about three to ten years after transmission. Symptoms may occur in many parts of the body, such as blindness, nose loss, deafness, facial deformity, and brittle bones. Some may experience dementia and others may seem insane. If the infection has reached the heart it may cause an abnormality like valvular heart disease, putting the patient at risk for a heart attack. If the infection has traveled to the spine it may cause paralysis and the patient is at risk of death.
Syphilis may be transmitted through sexual relations with an infected person in the first stage of the disease and possibly through contact with the pus on the skin of a person in the second stage (blooming stage) of the disease. A fetus may also contact syphilis in utero directly from an infected mother through the placenta and may display symptoms from birth.
Syphilis in Pregnancy

If a pregnant woman has syphilis and it is left untreated, the infected may be passed on to the fetus through the umbilical cord, leading to fetal death in utero, death after birth, or a lifetime deformity caused by congenital syphilis or resulting hydrops fetalis. The infected baby may suffer from abnormalities of the bone, teeth, nose (collapsed nose, saddle nose), lip and palate (cleft lip and cleft palate), or eyes (blindness), and even mental retardation.
If lesions occur in the genital area, especially after sexual intercourse, see a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Once diagnosed with syphilis, even if asymptomatic or in the resting stage, treatment is recommended as the infection can remain in the bloodstream and may cause severe symptoms later on. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics of the penicillin family in high doses and the patient should not miss any appointments for the injections. Missing a dose of medication may render the treatment ineffective and the patient may enter into stage 3 of the disease.
  • Avoid having multiple sexual partners and ensure that your current sexual partner has been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Avoiding recreational drug use and excessive alcoholic consumption that may lead to risky behavior that result in sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Using a condom correctly during sexual intercourse can reduce the risk of contracting syphilis. Be especially mindful about using a condom when having sex with a person that may be at risk of having syphilis.
  • Cleaning the genital area immediately after sex, both internally and externally cannot prevent syphilis. If any abnormality is found, such as a rash, wound, swelling, or abnormal discharge, contact a doctor immediately.

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