Syphilis

We thought we had syphilis obliterated - we were able to treat, cure and prevent the spread of this dreaded Sexually Transmitted Infection. But it is making a comeback so heads-up here.

Syphilis is spread with skin-to-skin sexual contact with the bacteria. From 10 days to 3 months after contact, you will develop a CHANCRE, a dime-sized, firm, round, painless sore with raised edges - the center is filled with fluid that is loaded with the bacteria. A person may have multiple sores, but usually just one forms at the location where the bacteria entered the body. The chancre may be in the female's vagina, on her cervix, around the anus, or on her genitals; with guys, it will appear on the penis, testicles or around or in their rectum. Syphilis can also be spread through oral contact with the bacterium - through oral sex – and a chancre may appear in the mouth or on the lips.

The chancre lasts 3 to 6 weeks, and then heals. However, if not treated, the disease goes through Stage 2: you may get a rash, especially on your hands and feet; you have fever and general malaise, sore throat, fatigue or small growths on your genitals. The disease is still contagious.

Now you go through a Latency stage, no signs or symptoms for up to 40 years, but the bacteria is doing damage in your body. Stage 3 is Tertiary Syphilis when the damage becomes obvious. Any of the following symptoms may appear: blindness, deafness, skin ulcers, heart disease, paralysis or severe brain damage.

Diagnosis is by a very simple blood test. If positive, all your sexual contacts must be tested for syphilis.

TREATMENT is simple, usually one large dose of penicillin, then a blood test and it may require another dose of penicillin. Please know that treatment can kill the bacteria but cannot undo the damage done by the bacteria.

PREGNANCY - The bacteria can infect the unborn baby at any time during the pregnancy, with disastrous results, blindness, deafness, brain damage or stillbirth.

PREVENTION - As with all STI's, it is important that you are in a loving, committed long term relationship, so you know and trust your partner. Although condoms will protect covered areas, syphilis can spread from contact with chancres on unprotected areas. Nevertheless, condoms do help reduce the risk, so please use them.