In Singapore alone, nearly 1,500 syphilis cases were reported annually in the last five years.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria referred to as Treponema pallidum. Usually, the initial sign of syphilis infection is a painless sore known as a chancre, which develops at the location where the bacteria enters your body. This chancre appears about three weeks from the time of your exposure. It can occur around your genitals, mouth, rectum, or it can even go unnoticed, especially if it’s hidden inside your body.
Syphilis is only transmitted via direct contact with syphilis chancres; it cannot be spread through the sharing of toilets, wearing another person’s clothing, or even using another individual’s eating utensils.
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Syphilis manifests in four distinct stages, the symptoms you experience will mainly depend on what stage of the infection you are in. These symptoms tend to overlap and don’t always develop as anticipated. You could also be infected with syphilis and not exhibit any visible symptoms.
However, even if you don’t show any symptoms, it is possible that you could still transmit the disease to your partner.
The four stages of syphilis infection are;
This is the initial stage of syphilis infection and occurs nearly three to four weeks after contracting the bacteria. It usually starts with a fairly small, round sore known as a chancre, which is often painless but highly infectious. This sore usually appears at the site of the bacterial infection, such as your rectum, genitals, or mouth.
The most common mode of syphilis transmission is through sexual activity, such as oral intercourse.
This particular stage usually manifests with a rash on one or more parts of your body. The rash can be rough, reddish-brown, or red, but can also be very faint and invisible. Other common symptoms that appear during this stage include:
Without adequate treatment, secondary syphilis symptoms will likely progress to latent and potentially tertiary phases.
This is the third stage of syphilis infection and is also known as the hidden stage. During this phase of syphilis infection, primary and secondary symptoms subside, which means it is not uncommon to be asymptomatic. Regardless, the bacteria remains dormant inside your system. This stage could last for decades before progressing to the last stage.
This is the last stage of syphilis. Research shows that nearly 15-30% of patients who fail to treat their syphilis infection will ultimately enter this stage. This can be a life-threatening stage and is usually characterized by symptoms such as:
As earlier explained, you can have syphilis but may never show any visible symptoms. Hence, regular syphilis testing is highly recommended for everyone who has had unprotected sex with a partner who has the disease. If you are sexually active, you should also get tested for STIs at least once a year.
Syphilis testing is done through a simple blood draw. However, if open sores are visible, a fluid sample from the sore may as well be swabbed and subsequently tested.
In terms of treatment, syphilis can easily be cured using antibiotics, especially if diagnosed early. The most common medication used to treat syphilis is a type of penicillin. Once successfully treated, syphilis won’t come back on its own, unless you once again contract it from another infected individual.
Untreated syphilis can not only affect many parts of your body including the heart, eyes, and brain, it can also be life-threatening! Studies have associated syphilis infection with aneurysms and inflammation of the aorta, your body’s major artery. Also, the infection can cause significant damage to your heart valves. Complications with syphilis can cause both neurological and cardiovascular problems such as meningitis, stroke, memory loss, hearing impairment.
In Singapore alone, approximately 1500 new cases of syphilis infections have been reported annually over the last five years! This surge is not just within Singapore but globally too.
Yes, syphilis is very much curable. Primary and secondary syphilis are arguably the easiest to cure, using a penicillin injection.
The approximate time between acquisition of this infection and the beginning of your initial symptoms is three weeks, but can sometimes range between 10-90 days. However, it is also possible to have the disease but not show any visible symptoms!
Yes, syphilis is 100% curable, especially if diagnosed early. However, it is imperative to note that treatment may never undo any earlier damage that the disease has already caused.
Yes, you can get syphilis from kissing an already infected individual. The bacteria that cause syphilis; T pallidum, can invade your mouth’s mucous membranes via an abrasion, leading to infection. As a result, you should avoid kissing syphilis-infected persons to prevent infection.
Sex isn’t the only way to acquire syphilis. If you didn’t know, just being in contact with an already infected individual’s mouth, genitals, or rectum is more than enough to get you infected. So, it is highly unlikely for your partner to not have the infection when you have it!
You can live with syphilis for nearly 10 or 20 years before you actually experience the worst symptoms as well as effects. Ultimately, untreated syphilis will result in significant damage to your eyes, brain, bones, heart, nerves as well as liver. What’s more, you could become blind, paralyzed, or it could affect your cognitive functions!