Syphilis is a bacterial infection (caused by the spirochete bacterium), and is primarily spread by sexual contact with an infected person. This means that any sexually active person can be infected with syphilis, especially between the ages of 15 and 30 years. There is no natural immunity to syphilis and past infection offers no protection to the patient. Syphilis can be easily treated with penicillin or tetracycline. However, if it left untreated, it can damage vital organs, including the brain. It can also cause heart disease, blindness, paralysis, and insanity.
The first symptoms of the disease appear within three to four weeks. Syphilis continues to develop in separate stages.
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THE STAGE OF SYPHILIS
Primary Stage: The first sign of infection is a chancre, which is a painless sore at the site of the infection (usually the genitals). It lasts about five weeks, and then goes away, even without treatment. The disease still reamins in the body, though.
Secondary Stage: If not treated, the pathogen moves through the blood. This highly contagious stage starts about ine to six months after infection. Common characteristics of this stage include rashes (non-itching) on the chest, arms, and legs. In females, the rash is also found on the . Sores that form from the rashes will give off a liquid filled with infectious spirochetes. The lymph nodes under the arms and around the groin may swell. Other symptoms include, fever, hoarseness, headaches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. These symptoms also disappeae without treatment, but the disease is still present.
Latent Stage: This stage begins about two or more years after infection. Every sign disappears, and it may give the impression of having been cured or never having the disease. However, during the third stage, the heart, blood vessels, and central nervous system are attacked gradually. Some people in this stage may relapse into the second stage.
Neurosyphilis Stage: Within 10-30 years, the heart, skin, brain, and spinal cord are damaged. An infected person at this stage may be unable to coordinate movement and may become blind or insane. The person also loses some mental capabilities and may experience paralysis and convulsions. In this stage, unfortunately, syphilis is treatable, but not curable.
HOW TO PREVENT SYPHILIS
Use a condom.
If you think you are infected, avoid any sexual contact and visit your local STD clinic, a hospital, or your doctor.
Notify all sexual contacts immediately so they can obtain examination and treatment.
All women should receive a blood test for syphilis during pregnancy.