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Syphilis – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatments

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Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease which can lead to numerous sheath complications unless it is treated at the right time. There are different stages of the disease, each with a specific set of symptoms, but all of them are equally grave.

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Syphilis is slowly becoming rampant which does not bode well. This is because syphilis and its associated sexual behaviors can lead to HIV which can be fatal for humans.

A syphilis-infected person can often be unaware about the disease and pass it on unknowingly to his or her sexual partners because the disease can often be difficult to diagnose.

Cause:

Syphilis is caused due to a spiral-shaped bacteria called the treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. It enters the body through tiny abrasions.

Syphilis sores are usually found in the genital area, on and in the space around the anus, vagina and the penis. They can also grow inside the rectum or the mouth.

Syphilis is spread through sexual contact between two individuals, be it vaginal, anal, or oral sex. This is because the unaffected person comes in contact with the syphilis sore in the process.

In some cases, the sores are also found on the lips in which case even prolonged kissing can make one contract the disease. Both male and female sexually active people can acquire the virus.

The disease can spread from one person to another during vaginal or oral sex. It also passes through skin to skin contact or by close genital contact. The bacteria will not pass through the condom but since it does not cover the scrotum, infection can occur.

One cannot get the disease from kissing, hugging, swimming pools, sharing baths or towels or from sharing cups, plates or cutler though, and we will take a look at why below. A syphilis-affected mother can pass on the infection to her unborn baby which can cause complications later on.

If the mother is infected and giving birth to a baby, chances are there for the baby to get the infection. When the baby comes out of the uterus and gets In contact with the infected birth canal, chances are there for the infant to develop warts on mouth and throat.

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However, syphilis cannot be transmitted through toilet seats, accidental touching, hot tubs, or sharing clothing items. This is because the bacteria cannot survive for long outside without a host, and hence cannot be transferred by objects.

Prevention

Syphilis

Till date, no vaccine has been discovered which can effectively reduce the chances of a person contracting syphilis. The only assured way of not getting the disease is to avoid having any form of sexual contact.

If you are sexually active, then there are some prevention techniques you can follow to be on the safe side. In case you are in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship, then it is best that you both get tested for the disease once after which there will be nothing to fear.

It is essential to use latex condoms for all sexual encounters without fail. Condoms not only protect you from syphilis, but also from other major sexually transmitted diseases. They do not let you come in contact with the infected sore.

However, if the sore is located in the mouth region, then they becomes redundant and there is no way to prevent the disease from spreading is you engage in kissing.

Getting tested once a year helps in early detection of the disease increasing the chance of the treatment working.

Symptoms

Syphilis has four stages:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Latent
  • Tertiary

The first two stages are dangerous to health, but the fourth one is the most fatal. In the latent stage, you will notice no symptoms.

Primary syphilis

This stage goes on three to four weeks after a person gets infected by the disease. A small and round sore which is painless but infectious develops on the body. It can appear any time between 10 and 90 days.

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Secondary syphilis

During this stage, you might develop skin rashes along with a sore throat. The rashes can appear anywhere on the body. You will also notice:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • aching joints
  • Headaches

Latent syphilis

You will not be able to detect the primary and secondary symptoms anymore but that does mean the bacteria is gone. It is working as a silent killer heading to the last stage.

Tertiary syphilis

It may take years to reach this stage, but it is life-threatening. It can lead to:

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Memory loss
  • Destruction of soft tissue and bone
  • Mental illness
  • Neurological disorders
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Neurosyphilis

Treatment

If you incur a syphilis sore, it is best that you avoid all kinds of sexual contact till it is treated.Syphilis patients who have been diagnosed early can be injected with intramuscular benzathine benzylpenicillin, doxycycline or tetracycline. However, they are not good options for pregnant women who should depend on penicillin pills.

In cases of neuro-syphilis, intravenous penicillin is used instead because of its ability to affect the central nervous system. The treatment can go on for as many days as the disease demands.

If the patient is allergic to any of the drugs, a suitable alternative can always be found. For example, ceftriaxone is an alternative drug to penicillin.

Alternative Treatments

Aloe vera

This plant is said to have tremendous healing properties and is used for all skin problems. It is applied on the wart until the wart heals. But aloe does not really kill the disease on its own.

Castor oil

It is said that castor oil is rubbed on the venereal warts until they disappear completely. Castor oil is derived from the seeds of a tropical plant Ricinus Communis, having a very unpleasant odor. It is also applied in combination with baking soda on the warts.

But again there is no scientific evidence to suggest castor oil being effective for the treatment against HPV. You might feel a headache and fever when you start out the treatment, but that is a common side effect.

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