SYPHILIS By: Emily Fink and Emily Merris
Transmission • Syphilis is an STD that is caused by a type of bacteria called a Spirochetespirochete, which is very small and can live almost anywhere in the body. Syphilis can be passed to another person through direct contact with a sore during any kind of sexual intercourse. It can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. You cannot catch syphilis from a towel, doorknob, or toilet seat.
SYMPTOMS • Syphilis causes a small, round, and painless sore on the genitals, anus, or mouth. There may also be a rash on the body, especially on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. There are several different stages of syphilis. In the first stage, red, firm, and occasionally wet sores that do not hurt can appear on the vagina, rectum, penis, or mouth. There is usually only one sore, but there may be a few as well. Chancres appear on the body part where the Syphilis was transferred from one person to another. After a couple of weeks the chancres will go away, but if the infection hasn't been treated, the disease will continue to get worse, so this does not mean the disease is gone.Syphilis is highly contagious during this first stage and can be easy to miss because the chancres are painless and appear in places that may not be easy to notice like under the foreskin, in the mouth, or on the anus. This means that people can pass the disease on to others without even realizing it.
SYMPTOMS SECONDARY SYPHILIS
SECONDARY SYPHILIS • In secondary syphilis the disease is still contagious. If syphilis hasn't been treated at this point, the person will often break out in a rash. This can happen weeks to months after the first signs of primary syphilis. These usually appears on the soles of the feet and palms of hands the worst. They also may notice fever and achiness. These rashes can sometimes be mild and look like something from another infection, making it sometimes ignored and unnoticed. Sores sometimes appear, but there are usually none in secondary syphilis. The symptoms of this secondary stage will go away by itself or with treatment, but if it still has not been treated then the disease will keep going. But if the infection hasn't been treated, the disease can continue to progress.
LATENT SYPHILIS • This period of the illness called latent syphilis, and will result in continued lack of treatment. All the signs of the disease go away, but the disease is still there. Syphilis can remain latent in this stage for many years.
TERTIARY SYPHILIS • In the tertiary stage, the spirochetes have spread all over the body and can affect the brain, the eyes, heart, spinal cord, and bones. This comes after latent syphilis if the disease is still not treated. Symptoms of tertiary syphilis can include trouble walking, numbness, gradual blindness, and possible death.
TREATMENT In the early stages, syphilis is easy to cure. For people who have had syphilis for less than a year, they get a single intramuscular injection of penicillin (an antibiotic). If a person has had syphilis for longer than a year they have to have additional doses to treat them. For people who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics are available to treat it. There are no over the counter drugs or home remedies that can treat or cure syphilis. Also, the treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not cure the damage already done. Since treatment for syphilis is so effective, it is recommended that if you are sexually active to be screened for syphilis on an on-going basis. People who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact until the syphilis sores are completely healed.
PENICILLIN The treatment for syphilis is penicillin injections. Penicillin is an antibiotic.
PREVENTION • There are many ways to prevent you from contracting syphilis. The first way is to abstain from anal and vaginal intercourse and oral sex. Second, if you do decide to have anal or vaginal intercourse, use female or latex condoms every time. Lastly, the chances of you getting syphilis from oral sex is very rare, but to prevent or reduce the risk from contracting it use latex, condoms, or plastic barriers.
PREVENTION If you have sex while having syphilis you should use a female condom, latex condom, or a plastic barrier everytime. This picture is of a female condom.
RESPONSIBILITY • If you find out that you have syphilis you should do a number of things to take responsibility. First, you have to inform your sex partner(s) of the infection. Second, you should not have sex until your treatment is complete. Next, make sure that your sex partner(s) get tested and treated for the disease before having sex again. When your treatment is complete and you begin to have sex again, use female or latex condoms every time you have vaginal or anal intercourse. Lastly if you have oral sex make sure to use a condom, Sheer Glyde dam, dental dam, or a piece of plastic wrap.
RESPONSIBILITY If a man has syphilis and impregnates a woman his sperm will contain syphilis. This means that the baby will have a very high chance of being born with syphilis.