It is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. It is a disease with so many signs and symptoms that it cannot be distinguished from other diseases.
It is transmitted through direct contact of the syphilis wound from person to person. The wound usually occurs on the external genitalia. Like inside the vagina, anus or rectum. It can also occur in the mouth and lips. It is transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sexual interest. It also infects the baby of a pregnant woman. Syphilis is not transmitted from toilets, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot water boilers, bath tubs, used clothing and dishes.
Signs and symptoms
People infected with syphilis may not have symptoms for years, and if they are not treated, the risk of late-period complications increases. Although it is transmitted from person to person through wounds, these wounds may not be recognized. Thus, the person may not be aware of his infection.
The first stage of syphilis is usually characterized by a single wound. This wound is called a chancre. It could be more than one. Between the onset of syphilis infection and the appearance of the first symptoms, there are 10-90 days (mean 21 days). The chancre is usually firm, round, small and painless. Syphilis begins at the point where the germ enters. The chancre lasts 3-6 weeks and becomes smooth without treatment. Persons who are not treated adequately pass into the second phase of the disease.
The second period is characterized by skin and mucous rashes. It typically starts as a rash on one or more parts of the body. There is usually no itching. This rash begins quickly or a few weeks after the chancre has healed. Typically, it appears as rough, red or red-brown patches on the soles of the feet and palms. Sometimes there are different rashes that resemble the rashes of other diseases. Some are so pale that they cannot be noticed. In addition to skin rashes, fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, regional hair loss, headache, weight loss, muscle pain and weakness are seen. It disappears with or without treatment. If untreated, the disease passes into the silent period and may even progress to the late period.
3rd Cycle and Silent Cycle
The silent phase of syphilis begins when the symptoms of the 1st and 2nd stages disappear. If the person is not treated, he carries the infection without signs and symptoms. The disease remains in the body. This silent cycle can last for years. The third period, that is, the late period, develops in 15% of the patients. It occurs 10-20 years after infection. In this late stage of syphilis, the disease begins to cause damage to the internal organs. The brain, borders, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, joints become sick. In late period syphilis, muscle dysfunction, paralysis, blindness and dementia are seen. Internal organ damage can be fatal.
Effect on the pregnant woman and her baby
During pregnancy, the baby can become infected with this bacteria. Depending on how long the mother has been infected, a dead birth or postpartum baby death occurs. An infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms. If not treated quickly, serious problems develop within a few weeks. Growth retardation or death occurs in the untreated baby.
Bacteria are searched in the swab taken from the wound with a method called dark field microscopy.
Diagnosis is made with blood tests. Antibodies against syphilis form shortly after infection. These are active, credible and inexpensive tests. Even if the disease is completely cured, low levels of antibodies may remain in the blood for months or years. Because untreated pregnant women with syphilis will infect their babies and cause death, all pregnant women should be tested for syphilis.
The relationship between syphilis and HIV
With the genital wound caused by syphilis, the contagiousness of HIV increases. In the presence of syphilis, the risk of HIV transmission increases 2-5 times.
In sexually transmitted diseases, which cause wounds and ulcers or with ulcerative lesions that disrupt the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes, the protective system of the skin is disrupted, such as syphilis. The tendency to infections increases. Genital ulcers due to syphilis bleed easily. The risk of HIV transmission increases when it comes into contact with the oral or rectal mucosa during sexual intercourse. Having other sexually transmitted diseases also facilitates the transmission of HIV.
In the early stages of syphilis, treatment is easy. Antibiotic treatment is applied for the causative agent. With treatment, the syphilis germ dies and it is prevented from causing further destruction. However, if it has already caused destruction, it cannot cure it.
Since it has an effective treatment, individuals who are at risk of sexually transmitted disease should be investigated from time to time by syphilis.
The person who is treated for syphilis is forbidden to have sexual intercourse until the wound is completely healed. These individuals should warn other individuals they are with and ensure that tests related to syphilis are performed and that they receive treatment if necessary.
Will syphilis recur?
Having syphilis does not prevent the disease from reoccurring. Even after successful treatment, the disease can be re-infected.
Tests reveal that a person has syphilis. Because syphilis sores can be hidden in the vagina, rectum and mouth. Thus, the person cannot clearly see that the person with whom he has sexual intercourse is sick. Therefore, in doubtful cases, retesting may be required after treatment.
The safest form of protection from sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, is abstinence from sexual contact or a long-term relationship with a single tested and known uninfected partner.
Avoiding alcohol and drug use is also valuable in preventing the transmission of syphilis. Because, in such cases, it becomes easier to participate in risky sexual acts. Spouses who are in sexual contact tell each other their own HIV status and the history of other sexually transmitted diseases, if any, which facilitates taking precautions to protect against these diseases.
Diseases with genital ulcers such as syphilis can occur in the genital areas of both women and men, as well as in areas that can be covered with a condom, as well as in areas that the condom cannot cover. Truth and always use of condoms reduces the risk of transmission of syphilis, genital herpes and chancroid, as long as it prevents contact with the infected area.
Condoms lubricated with spermicides (especially N-9) have no superiority in protection over other lubricated condoms. Condoms lubricated with N-9 are not recommended for protection from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
The transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, cannot be prevented by washing the genital area, urinating or showering after sexual interest.
When any unusual discharge, wound or rash is noticed, especially in the genital area, sexual intercourse should be terminated and a specialist doctor should be consulted immediately.