Syphilis

21:55 - 4 May , 2021

Disease

What is Syphilis?

It is an infection caused by the bacteria called Treponema pallidum, which is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person. It is usually a fairly common infection with a high degree of contagion, especially at the beginning, when genital sores called chancres appear, which are usually painless. 

Symptoms

Generally, syphilis does not have symptoms and, when it appears, it is often confused with other conditions. The signs appear and disappear, but not the infection.  The symptoms are divided into the following stages that can coincide or occur simultaneously:
  • Primary phase: one or several sores or chancres appear in the place where the bacteria entered, which may be the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, or scrotum and, in some cases, in the mouth or lips. However, it can also occur inside the vagina or rectum, making it invisible. 
These sores, not being painful, can go unnoticed and are downplayed. They usually manifest between three weeks and three months after infection and remain for three to six weeks until they disappear. 
  • Secondary phase: skin rash appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or in other body areas. Mild flu-like symptoms may occur, including fever, tiredness, sore throat, swollen glands, headache, and muscle aches. Also, there may be sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus, weight loss and hair loss.
These symptoms can last between two to six weeks for each outbreak, come and go over the next two years, making diagnosis difficult, and also disappear on their own with or without treatment.  Late or advanced phase: the infection can be latent for years without any symptoms. Complications usually appear between 15 and 20 years after infection.  If you are a sexually active person or suspect that you are infected, it is important that you avoid all sexual contact and see your doctor as soon as possible, since syphilis, if not treated promptly, can cause serious and permanent complications to your health, such as:
  • Blindness.
  • Damage to the brain, nerves, and other organs.
  • Difficulty coordinating muscle movements.
  • Paralysis. 
  • Tumors.
  • Death.

Diagnosis and treatment

After knowing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will request tests related to sexually transmitted diseases to help confirm or rule out the diagnosis. In case you have been infected, your sexual partner or partners should also receive treatment, since you and they are at risk of re-infection and transmitting it to other people. Like any disease, syphilis will have a better response if it is treated in its early stages, since it can be cured with antibiotics. However, in the late phase, it is no longer curable and cannot be reversed. Therefore, it is essential that you have the relevant tests on time to prevent this disease from progressing silently in your body. Having had syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again, so follow-up tests are important to make sure treatment has been effective. Preventive Measures: The only sure way to avoid getting syphilis and any other sexually transmitted diseases is by having safe and low-risk sex, also:
  • Use condoms.
  • Avoid constantly changing partners or having sex with promiscuous people.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse with people who have syphilis symptoms.
  • Have only one sexual partner and have him or her do the same.
In ABC Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Department, we offer health care services with the highest quality and safety, from the prevention, diagnosis, timely treatment, and monitoring of infectious, respiratory, endocrinological, dermatological, rheumatic, nephrological, gastrointestinal, and hematological pathologies of both chronic-degenerative diseases and acute conditions, through a comprehensive and multidisciplinary model.

Fuentes:

  • medlineplus.gov
  • mayoclinic.org
  • msdmanuals.com
  • cds.gov
  • medigraphic.com
  • Morales GLC, Guevara SEG. Secondary Syphilis: The Great Imitator in 2021 Questionnaire. Dermatología Cosmética, Médica y Quirúrgica. 2021;19(2):183-190.
  • Juárez-Figueroa LA, Uribe-Salas FJ, Vargas-Guadarrama G, et al. Syphilis infection markers among HIV positive individuals in the Mexico City HIV/AIDS Program. Salud pública mex. 2021;63(1):27-33.
  • Osorio-Guzmán M, Santos-Vázquez G, Torres-Muñoz D, et al. Early congenital syphilis, case series and anatomopathological description. Rev Latin Infect Pediatr. 2020;33(3):149-155. doi:10.35366/95652.
  • Pereira RY, Pereira CJ, Quirós FL. Syphilis: clinical and therapeutic approach in the first level of care. Revista Médica Sinergia. 2020;5(08):1-11.
The dissemination of the content of this material is for informational purposes only and does not replace, under any circumstance or condition, a consultation with a specialist doctor, for which the ABC Medical Center is not responsible for the different use that may be given to it. If you require more information related to the subject, we suggest you contact the specialist doctor you trust directly.