In the United States, syphilis is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of syphilis has risen every year since 2001. According to the data, approximately 20,000 infections were detected in 2014, with 83 percent of cases appearing in men between the ages of 20 and 20. 

This result may be frightening, but you have options to protect yourself. Here are important health information and suggestions.

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It is a highly infectious disease transmitted mostly via sexual activity, including oral and anal intercourse. In most cases, the infected person is often unaware that they are sick and transmits the disease onto their sexual partner. 

Causes of syphilis

How do individuals acquire syphilis? This is the most common question asked about the condition. Syphilis is transmitted by sexual skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the disease.

When your vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or mouth come into contact with someone’s syphilis sores — generally during intercourse – you may develop syphilis. Even if no one is directly infected, the infection may still spread.

Syphilis isn’t acquired by casual contact, thus, sharing food or beverages, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, sharing towels, or sitting on toilet seats won’t give you the disease.

People get syphilis mostly through vaginal and anal intercourse. It’s less likely to contract it through oral sex, but there are rare cases when it happens. When there are sores on the skin, it is very easy to spread syphilis to others. However, many people are unaware that they have it since they are oblivious to the sores.

Even if you and your sex partner appear to be in perfect health, using condoms every time you have sex is one of the greatest strategies to help avoid STIs and STDs.

With this in mind, can syphilis recur once cured? Syphilis does not recur after it has been treated. You can, however, get reinfected if you come in contact with someone’s syphilis sore.

Stages of syphilis and its symptoms

There are three stages of syphilis: primary, secondary, and tertiary syphilis. The symptoms often show up three weeks after getting infected.

Primary stage

  • People with primary syphilis (early stages) have chancres, which are open but painless sores.
  • The sores appear on your genitals, anus, or rectum, or in or around your mouth after 10 to 90 days (3 weeks on average) after you’ve been exposed to the infection.
  • They will recover in 6 weeks without leaving scars, even without treatment.
  • Treatment, on the other hand, will prevent your condition from progressing to the following stage.

Secondary stage

  • After you’ve been exposed for 6 weeks to 6 months, you’ll enter the second stage.
  • This stage may last from one to three months.
  • A pink “copper penny” rash appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet in people with secondary syphilis.
  • These rashes may resemble those caused by other diseases so it is important to have them checked by a medical professional.
  • Secondary syphilis symptoms, like primary syphilis, may improve without therapy.

Tertiary stage

  • If you don’t treat a syphilis infection, it may affect your heart, brain, and nervous system. There is a possibility for you to become paralyzed, blind, or deaf. You could also develop dementia or impotence. Untreated syphilis has the potential to be fatal.

There are other kinds of syphilis, including:

  • Latent syphilis: The illness may not cause any symptoms even if it is present in your body.
  • Congenital syphilis: Pregnant mothers who are infected with syphilis can pass it on to their unborn children. It has the potential to affect the infant or perhaps cause death.
  • Neurosyphilis: It’s possible for the infection to spread to your brain or spinal cord by affecting the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). You may suffer from headaches, dementia, numbness, or paralysis. It’s also possible to have trouble regulating your muscles.


Syphilis treatment 

Depending on how long you’ve had the infection, syphilis treatment time and syphilis treatment cost may vary. ​​With prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, it can be cured. Syphilis that hasn’t been present for more than two years is normally treated with an injection of penicillin in the buttocks, or a 10 to 14-day course of antibiotic pills if penicillin isn’t an option. 

Remember that if you wait too long to treat it, this may cause lifelong harm to your heart and brain, even after the infection is gone.

Here are some of the things to remember:

  • If you’ve had syphilis for less than a year, one dosage of penicillin should be enough to clear it up. If you have a penicillin allergy, another antibiotic, such as doxycycline, may be prescribed instead. You’ll require more dosages if you’re in a later stage of the disease.
  • For syphilis treatment in pregnancy, if you are allergic to penicillin, your doctor would most likely recommend desensitization, which allows you to safely take the medicine.
  • Do not engage in sexual activity until the infection has entirely subsided. Your sexual partners should be checked and treated if required.
  • Additional note: Several hours after the initial treatment, some people with syphilis experience a Jarisch-Herxheimer response, which is an immune system reaction. Fever, chills, headache, upset stomach, rash, or joint and muscular discomfort are all possible symptoms. These issues normally resolve themselves within 24 hours.


Syphilis prevention

After the infection is treated with medication, it is possible to contract syphilis again. To lower your chances of contracting it, do the following:

  • If you know someone is affected, avoid having close contact with them.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex if you don’t know if your sexual partner is infected.

Get tested for syphilis or other STIs regularly if you are sexually active or if you suspect that you are infected.

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