WHAT IS SYPHILIS?
Syphilis is a highly contagious disease spread primarily by sexual activity.
HOW DO PEOPLE GET SYPHILIS?
-Sexual contact: Sexual intercourse, including oral and anal sex.
-Kissing and body contact: Occasionally, the disease can be passed to another person through prolonged kissing or close bodily contact.
-During Pregnancy and Childbirth: Pregnant women with the disease can spread it to their baby. Congenital syphilis can cause stillbirth, abnormalities, or even death to the baby.
Note: Infection is NOT spread by toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SYPHILIS?
Syphilis infection symptoms vary according to three distinct stages:
a) Early or primary syphilis. People with primary syphilis will develop one or more sores. The sores are usually small painless ulcers. They occur on the genitals or in or around the mouth somewhere between 10-90 days (average 3 weeks) after exposure. Even without treatment they heal without a scar within 6 weeks.
b) The secondary stage may last 1-3 months and begins within 6 weeks to 6 months after exposure. People with secondary syphilis experience a rosy "copper penny" rash typically on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. However, rashes with a different appearance may occur on other parts of the body, sometimes resembling rashes caused by other diseases. They may also experience moist warts in the groin, white patches on the inside of the mouth, swollen lymph glands, fever, and weight loss. Like primary syphilis, secondary syphilis will resolve without treatment.
c) Latent syphilis. This is where the infection lies dormant (inactive) without causing symptoms.
Tertiary syphilis. If the infection isn't treated, it may then progress to a stage characterized by severe problems with the heart, brain, and nerves that can result in paralysis, blindness, dementia, deafness, impotence, and even death if it's not treated.
WHAT CAN RESULT FROM SYPHILIS?
If treated too late, there may be permanent damage to the heart and brain even after the infection is eliminated.
WHEN SHOULD I GET TESTED FOR SYPHILIS?
Immediately. Syphilis can be easily diagnosed with a quick and inexpensive blood test given at your doctor's office or at a public health clinic.
HOW IS SYPHILIS DIAGNOSED?
It involves getting a blood sample.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR SYPHILIS?
It can be treated with antibiotics. However, the dose will depend in the stage of the infection. People who are being treated for syphilis must abstain from sexual contact until the infection is completely gone. Sexual partners of people with syphilis should be tested and, if necessary, treated.