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What is Syphilis and How is it Treated?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection this if left untreated can be terminal. When caught in its early stages it can be treated with antibiotics.

Overview of Syphilis

Syphilis is the result of infection from a bacteria called Treponema Pallidum.


Syphilis is identified by on open sore, called a chancre, which appears on the genitals during the primary stages of the disease.

Sores may also appear in or around the mouth, contracted through oral sex.

Reported cases of Syphilis have been on the decline over the last decade, with less than approximately 2% of the population of the United States reporting infection in the first two stages of the disease.


Transmission of Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, although sexual intercourse is not required for the disease to be transmitted.

Syphilis transmission

Persons who have physical contact with the infected area of a person with Syphilis, can contract the disease.

Syphilis can vary between periods of activity and inactivity, and while physical signs are visual during an active period of the disease, no symptoms can be present but the infection can still be present.


Kissing Transmission

Although rare, Syphilis may also be contracted by wet kisses, if an open sore in the mouth is available for the virus to enter the body.


Blood transfusions are another way Syphilis can be transmitted, as through sharing a needle.


Neonatal Transmission

A pregnant woman who has or contracts the disease during pregnancy can pass the virus through the placenta and infect her unborn fetus.

neonatal transmission
Neonatal transmission

It is also possible to transmit the disease during vaginal delivery.


The Four Stages of Syphilis Development

If left untreated, Syphilis can develop to a point where it poses a serious health risk. Each phase of development has unique characteristics.


Primary Stage

During this first stage of infection, a painless chancre sore develops at the location where the bacteria first infected the body.

This usually occurs on average of 21 days. For men, location is typically on the penis, and for woman, location is on the outer genitals or the inner part of the vagina.

If chancres develop internally on woman, the painless sores may go unnoticed. People in this stage are considered highly contagious, and stand the greatest risk of passing the disease to others.

Lymph nodes, in and around the area of the infection, may experience swelling during this stage. Chancre sores typically last between one month to a month and a half and will heal without treatment.

Second Stage

In this phase of Syphilis development, a skin rash may develop. The rash usually last about 60 days and will clear up on its own.

Third Stage

In this period of Syphilis development, the virus may become latent or inactive.

This usually follows the clearing of the rash. An infected person can remain symptom free for as many as 20 years.

Symptom free does not mean virus free, and the virus will spread to internal organs and begin to cause damage.

Late Stage

Severe health problems occur if Syphilis is allowed to progress to this stage, including heart problems, mental disorders, nervous system problems, blindness and even death.

Recognizing the symptoms of Syphilis and seeking prompt medical treatment is important to prevent late stage complications and the spreading of the virus to others.

If you think you may have spread the Syphilis virus to sexual partners, they should be notified and advised to seek treatment.

Currently Syphilis is being effectively treated with Antibiotics, which can be administered at any stage of viral development.


Published in STD