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) and 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
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 4 stages.
Stage 1: 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.
Stage 2: Unfortunately, the sores may recur as a widespread rash 2 to 8 weeks later after the initial genital sore outbreak.
The Good News is:
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 involvement of 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 this tiny bacteria can present with any 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. arly 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 diagnosis of syphilis may be confirmed by testing fluid from 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.
Can an infected person be cured permanently with treatment?
Only if the disease is diagnosed at stage 1 or 2.
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 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 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 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.
We offer STD panel testing!!
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.