- A sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum
- Can also be passed from mother to infant during pregnancy causing a disease( congenital syphilis)
- Usually, syphilis is transmitted from a sexual partner or from mother to child.
- Most common way is by having sexual contact with an infected person
- Once infected, the bacteria can be passed from infected skin or mucous membranes (linings), usually the genital area, lips, mouth, or anus, to the mucous membranes or skin of your sexual partner
- The bacteria are fragile, so they cannot be transmitted through eating utensils, using tubs, pools, or toilets.
Syphilis is sometimes called "the great imitator" because it has so many possible symptoms, and its symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases. Having HIV infection at the same time can change the symptoms and course of syphilis. Syphilis (other than congenital syphilis) occurs in four stages that sometimes overlap.
It can be very difficult for a health care provider to diagnose syphilis based on symptoms. The symptoms and signs of the disease might be absent, go away without treatment, or be confused with those of other diseases. Because syphilis can be hard to diagnose, one should
- Visit a health care provider if one have a lesion in the genital area or a widespread rash
- Get tested periodically for syphilis if one¡¯s sexual behaviors put one at risk for STDs
- Get tested to be sure one do not also have syphilis if one have been treated for another STD such as gonorrhea or HIV infection
The health care provider can diagnose early syphilis by seeing a chancre or rash and then confirming the diagnosis with laboratory tests. Because latent syphilis has no symptoms, it is diagnosed by laboratory tests. There are two laboratory methods for making the diagnosis: by identifying the bacteria in a sample taken from a lesion and placed on a microscope slide and by performing a blood test for syphilis. If the doctor thinks one might have neurosyphilis, the spinal fluid will be tested as well.
- Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages.
- The best treatment for syphilis is to inject Penicillin into the muscles.
- If one is allergic to penicillin, the health care provider may give another antibiotic to taken by mouth.
- One is more likely to need repeat treatment if treatment is by other antibiotics and not penicillin.
- If one has neurosyphilis, one may need to receive daily doses of penicillin intravenously (in the vein) and may need to be treated in the hospital.
If one has late syphilis, damage done to the body organs cannot be reversed.
While being treated, abstain from sex until the sores are completely healed. Notify one¡¯s sex partners too so that they can test for syphilis and treat it if necessary.
- To prevent getting syphilis, one must avoid contact with infected tissues and body fluids of an infected person.
- Most transmission of syphilis, however, is from people who have no visible sores or rashes and who do not know they are infected.
- If uninfected and sexually active, having mutually monogamous sex with only one uninfected partner is the best way to prevent syphilis.
- Using condoms properly and consistently during sexual intercourse reduces the risk of getting syphilis.
- Washing or douching after sex will not prevent syphilis.
- Even if one has been treated for syphilis and cured, you can be re-infected by having sex with an infected partner.
The risk of a mother transmitting syphilis to her unborn baby during pregnancy declines with time but continues during latent syphilis. To prevent congenital syphilis, all pregnant women should be tested for syphilis.