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Symptoms and treatment of syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease marked by a range of symptoms, depending on the stage the infection has reached. It is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, and while it is almost always transmitted via sexual contact with an infected partner, there are cases of congenital transmission from a mother to her baby.

Syphilis Symptoms

The symptoms of syphilis differ, depending on whether it's in the primary stage, secondary stage, or a latent or late stage.

The key symptom of the primary stage of syphilis is the appearance of a sore called a chancre. Typically, only one chancre appears, though there may be multiple sores. The chancre will appear at the place where the bacteria that causes syphilis entered the body, and the sore is painless, small, firm and round in shape. On average, it takes 21 days from the time of infection for a chancre to appear, though the actual range is 10 to 90 days. While the chancre usually goes away on its own within three to six weeks, the infection can pass into the secondary stage without proper treatment.

In the secondary stage, rashes and mucus membrane lesions appear on one or more areas of the body. These rashes are normally rough in texture and reddish brown in color. Other secondary syphilis symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, hair loss, headaches, weight loss, fatigue, malaise, muscle aches, fever and unexplained weight loss.

Latent-stage syphilis occurs when primary and secondary symptoms disappear. The infection can remain in the body for years, even though the patient has become asymptomatic. In some cases, the latent stage of the disease progresses to late-stage or tertiary syphilis, which is very serious. Organ damage, including damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, liver, joints, bones and blood vessels, is a possibility.

One particularly severe form of tertiary syphilis is neurosyphilis, which causes dementia, ataxia, paralysis and blindness. In severe cases, death can result.

Syphilis Testing and Treatment

Blood tests or laboratory analysis of a sample taken from a chancre are used to diagnose syphilis. A syphilis false positive test result is very rare nowadays. It is very important to seek treatment at the first sign of primary symptoms, as syphilis is curable if detected early. Antibiotics can be used to kill the Treponema pallidum bacteria.

There is a link between HIV and syphilis: the presence of chancres makes it easier for the HIV virus to enter the body. With STIs like syphilis and gonorrhea making a comeback, it is very important that you protect yourself by practicing safer sex at all times.

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