Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious damage to the body system, including the heart, muscles, eyes and bones. It is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum and is very hard to diagnose; still, without treatment, it becomes life-threatening.
Syphilis progresses through four different stages with different symptoms. It is highly contagious in the first and second stages, and people who have it can easily pass it to their sexual partners through unprotected sex. The four stages are as follows.
This is the first 2 to 12 weeks after exposure to the infection; during this stage, a smooth sore called chancre will appear on your mouth or genitals and will usually go away after a few weeks. At this stage, syphilis can be transmitted through oral, vaginal and anal sex and without treatment, it will progress to stage two.
This stage is about one to six months after the first sore goes away; a rough, bumpy rash appears, which can cover your entire body and even your palms and the soles of your feet. The rash isn’t itchy, but some other symptoms you may experience include:
- Muscle ache.
- Hair loss.
- Weight loss.
- Wart-like sores.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
These symptoms can come and go for months and even years, but just because the symptoms go away doesn’t mean the syphilis is gone if not properly treated; it will progress to stage three.
At this stage, syphilis can be transmitted through oral, vaginal and anal sex.
In the latent stage, syphilis is already becoming severe; it can cause serious issues for your bones, nerves, heart, and other organs. However, there are usually no prominent signs and symptoms; some people may occasionally experience mild flare-ups. This stage can last for up to 20 years. However, it is rare to transmit the infection through sex during this time, but without medical attention, it will progress to the next stage.
A lot of people do not have symptoms at this stage, and not everyone progresses to this stage either, but if a person does, they will experience a range of severe health problems, which include:
- Nerve damage.
- Heart disease.
- Brain damage.
- Movement disorder and muscle problems.
- Destruction of soft tissues and bones.
- Congenital heart problems.
- Vision problems.
Causes of Syphilis
This infection is caused by Treponema pallidum, and an infected person spreads it through oral, anal, and vagina sex. The bacteria enters the body through the mouth, anus, vagina, penis, cuts or broken skin and continue to spread throughout the body and eventually cause organ damage.
Syphilis is 100% curable; it is treated with antibiotics, usually penicillin, but the duration of treatment and dosage depends on the stage of the infection. However, if the treatment starts when it is already at the late stage, it might be too late to save your organs even after eliminating the bacteria.