What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health issues if it is not treated during the early stages of the disease. Syphilis can start on a localized area of the skin (stage 1); progress to wide involvement of the skin (stage 2); and years later invade the heart and liver (stage 3). Finally, it can involve the brain (stage 4) if left undiagnosed and untreated.
What is the cause of syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria called Treponema pallidum
How is syphilis transmitted?
Syphilis is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
What are the signs and symptoms of syphilis?
Signs and symptoms of syphilis depend on the stage of the disease. The disease is classified into the following 4 stages:
Syphilis can initially present as a single or multiple small painless sores on the genital area. At this stage of the disease, an infected individual may not notice or take the sores seriously since they will heal over a few weeks even if they are not diagnosed and treated.
Unfortunately, the sores may recur as a widespread rash 2 to 8 weeks later after the initial genital sore outbreak.
The good news for stages 1 and 2
Syphilis at stage 1 or 2 is still treatable and easy to diagnose by an experienced physician.
Scary stages of syphilis with permanent heart and brain disease
Stage 3 and stage 4 of syphilis occur years after undiagnosed and untreated stage 1-2 syphilis.
If syphilis is not treated in stage 1 or 2, the disease can progress to the heart ( stage 3), and later the brain can be attacked and damaged (stage 4) with poor response to the current treatments available.
At that time, a victim of these tiny bacteria can present symptoms of inner organ and brain disease/ failure. Unfortunately, there is little that we can do if the disease attacks the inner organs and the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment of syphilis is essential.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
If you have a sore on the genital area or scattered bumps on your body, you may want to give us a call to be seen, tested, and treated if the diagnosis of syphilis is made. You don’t want to be diagnosed when you have heart and brain disease as the result of a syphilis infection!!!
How is syphilis diagnosed?
The first step in making a correct diagnosis is to find a doctor that has experience with STDs. Obtaining a comprehensive medical and social history and examining the patient can raise suspicion of this disease. If you have any genital sore (stage 1) or scattered skin lesions (stage 2), then the diagnosis of syphilis may be confirmed by testing fluid obtained from these skin lesions. Based on the stage of syphilis, multiple different types of blood tests can also confirm the diagnosis with anywhere between 80% to 100% accuracy.
Sex partner therapy
You may transfer this infection to your sex partner, and neither of you may be aware of it until the disease is advanced. At OC MedDerm, we will educate you about the risks and offer treatment to your sex partner if needed.
What is the treatment for syphilis?
Very simple antibiotics with a high success rate can treat the disease if it is diagnosed at an early stage.
How can I reduce my risk of becoming infected with syphilis?
Abstaining from vaginal, anal, or oral sex completely eliminates the risk of syphilis infection.
If you are sexually active, you can do the following to diminish your risk:
- Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a sex partner that has been tested negative for syphilis.
- Correctly use latex condoms every time you have any type of intercourse
- Be smart and educated about STDs. If you have any doubts, be seen and tested for STDs regularly.
How can I share with my sex partner that I have been infected with syphilis?
As mentioned above, early syphilis can present with a small, painless sore in the genital area, and an infected person may never be aware of being infected and positive for syphilis. Therefore, in a sexual relationship, it is difficult to find out who gave it to whom and when. Dr. Shafa recommends that sex partners be open-minded regarding this rising STD in the U.S. and be happy that the treatment of syphilis is very easy and highly successful if it is caught in the early stages of the disease.
How can we be sure that infection is completely treated?
Dr. Shafa recommends that both sex partners be tested and treated at the same time. Both sex partners should also be retested 3 months after the treatment of syphilis infection to ensure it has completely resolved.
What is my risk for other STDs if I am positive for syphilis?
There is a high chance that you can be infected with more than one STD at the same time. This is because open sores allow other bacteria or viruses to invade the body. Therefore, it is wise that you and your sex partner be tested for all other silent STDs if you are positive for one.
Dr. Shafa recommends that any patient with one STD be tested for all other common STDs. This is done for the patient’s and the doctor’s peace of mind.
If you have any concerns or symptoms regarding possible STDs call us to make a medical appointment to be evaluated, educated, diagnosed, and treated if needed. Feel free to ask questions or call us ((949) 551-1113) to make an appointment to see Dr. Shafa if you desire