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Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet complications can occur without treatment. Syphilis occurs in stages, beginning with a painless sore at the spot the bacteria entered your body. So if your partner has a syphilis sore in her vagina or rectum, and it's painless, they won't know it's there, they won't know they're infected...and you'll get infected!
The first stage of a syphilis infection starts with a single sore, sometimes many can show up. The sore usually appears 21 days after your body came in contact with someone else's open sore, but can appear in as little as 10 days or as many as 90.
The sore can last 3 to 6 weeks, without any pain, and heals without treatment. This doesn't mean you are no longer infected! This does mean the bacteria is moving deeper into your body. If you're having any kind of sex while you have a sore, you're giving the bacteria to your partner. Without treatment, syphilis infection enters the second stage, usually a rash that doesn't itch.
The rash can appear while you still have sores and may look like rough, red, or reddish brown spots on the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. But, rashes with a different appearance may appear on other parts of the body, sometimes looking like rashes caused by other diseases. Your rash may even not be noticeable.
Other symptoms of the second stage of syphilis may include fever, swollen glands, sore throat, hair loss, headaches, weight loss, achy muscles and being tired. These signs and symptoms can disappear without treatment, but you're still infected. The bacteria will move deeper into the body for the third, and hidden stage...hidden for 10-20 years!
Without treatment, the infected person will continue to have syphilis even though there are no signs or symptoms; no sores, no hair loss, no headaches. The bacteria remains in the body, finally infecting the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. Signs and symptoms of the third stage of syphilis include clumsiness, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. It can cause death.
In Missouri, the largest number of syphilis infections were reported among white men, age 40 and older. Among African-American men, syphilis infections are more evenly spread among all age groups. Men who have sex with men are in a high-risk population group for syphilis infection. Syphilis is found among women, although at a much lower rate.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called "the great imitator" because so many of the signs and symptoms appear just like those of other diseases.
Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the outer genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis sores are firm, round, small, and painless and appear where the bacteria entered the body. Transmission of the bacteria occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to the babies they are carrying. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
You have an increased risk of getting syphilis if you engage in high-risk sexual activity including unprotected sex with multiple partners, unprotected sex with a new partner, or have sex while using drugs or alcohol. You also face increased risk if you are a man who has sex with men.
The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of syphilis because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.
Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single shot of penicillin, an antibiotic, will cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year. Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year.
For people who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics are available to treat syphilis. There are no home remedies or over-the-counter drugs that will cure syphilis. Appropriate treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done.
For women and men, any genital symptoms such as an unusual sore, discharge with odor, burning during urination could mean an STD infection. An additional symptom of possible infection for women is bleeding between menstrual cycles. If any of these symptoms appear, you should stop having sex and consult a health care provider immediately.
Fact Sheet: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm
En Espanol: http://www.cdc.gov/std/Spanish/STDFact-Syphilis-s.htm
Last Updated On December, 18, 2010