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Syphilis

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Syphilis is a bacterial based sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis has been known to attack mucous membranes, skin, and the genitals although it can also complicate other areas of the body especially if it is left untreated, including the brain. Treatment options improved dramatically in the 1940’s with the development of penicillin, and for 40 years incidents of the disease were way down. With the introduction of HIV and AIDS into modern society, syphilis cases once again began to rise in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Syphilis is much more common in gay or bi-sexual men, but by no means is a “gay disease.” Syphilis can be treated successfully, but without treatment can lead to serious health complications and death.

SYPHILIS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

There are 4 stages of syphilis, each with its own distinct set of symptoms. Stage 1, the primary stage, begins with a small sore which is relatively painless wherever the disease was initially transmitted and swollen lymph nodes in the groin.

Stage 2, the secondary stage, may occur after the initial signs have disappeared. The secondary stage is typically accompanied by a rash that leaves reddish brown sores about the size of a penny all over the body, fatigue, fevers, a general feeling of uncomfortable but unidentifiable illness, and body soreness and aches. These symptoms may disappear often for as long as a year, returning within a few weeks of their disappearance, only to disappear again. For someone who does not understand the nature of syphilis or the symptoms, it can be very confusing for the patient.

Stage 3, which is known as the latent stage, may have no symptoms at all. At this stage, syphilis may have actually simply disappeared, or it may slumber and return in the final stage. Either way, syphilis can still be passed from person to person regardless of whether or not symptoms are present.

The final stage, the tertiary stage, is the most dangerous stage, as the bacteria often spreads and causes damage to the internal organs, including the brain, and the cardiovascular system. Deafness, visual problems, heart problems, and dementia are just a few of the potential symptoms from syphilis which reaches the final stage.

Syphilis is considered dangerously transmittable during the first, second, and third stages, regardless of whether or not the patient is showing symptoms. Syphilis is caused by a bacterium, and can only be transmitted via direct bodily fluid contact, such as sexual activity, lesion to bodily fluid contact, and mother to unborn baby contact. It is not contracted through casual contact, sharing toilet seats, clothing, or other ordinary items with an infected person.

SYPHILIS RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for syphilis include risky sexual activity, age (most new cases of syphilis fall between the ages of 15 and 25) and sexual orientation. There is a significant increase in the number of syphilis cases associated with the HIV positive and AIDS community.

SYPHILIS DIAGNOSIS

Syphilis is usually diagnosed because the patient develops sores in the genital area. A physician may take skin scrapings of these sores in order to have them analyzed for syphilis. Since the look of the sores is fairly distinctive, physicians can usually recognize symptoms by sight, but will follow through with skin scraping tests to confirm the diagnosis. A spinal tap may be performed if the physician is suspicious that some neurological involvement, known as neurosyphilis, is present.

SYPHILIS COMPLICATIONS

The greatest complication of syphilis affects babies whose mothers have the disease. Babies who are born to mothers with syphilis experience depressed bridge nose, bone pain, bone abnormalities, disfigured teeth, swollen joints, vision complications, hearing complications, scars at the sites of early sores, and the possibility of death. About half the babies whose mothers have syphilis die while in the uterus, during birth, or within a few days of being born.

Adult complications can include hearing and vision problems, brain misfiring and neurological complications and cardiovascular system complications. Syphilis sores also increase the chances of an adult contracting HIV through sexual activity.

SYPHILIS TREATMENT

Antibiotics, usually penicillin, are used to treat syphilis, and often do so quite effectively. Pf course, early diagnosis and treatment are a patient’s best option for a full recovery. The first day of treatment usually causes chills, fever, nausea, body aches, and flu like feeling. It is speculated that this is due to the sudden death of the bacteria, and is typically over in less than 24 hours. Blood tests are usually required throughout the treatment process in order to sure that the body is responding to the treatment.

It is imperative that anyone who suspects they have syphilis or is undergoing treatment for syphilis discuss this with sexual partners. Abstaining from sexual activity while undergoing treatment and being devoted to safe sex practices in times of health are the only methods of preventing the continuing spread of this disease.
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