Syphilis is a common sexually transmitted bacterial infection, notable for being capable of infection through skin contact with any body part. It can be passed on through contact with the infected sores or sexual fluids of an infected person. Contrary to urban legend, Syphilis cannot be passed on through toilet seats, doorknobs, hot-tubs, or any other means than direct skin contact.
In 2006, 36,000 cases of Syphilis were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and infection rates have slowly risen since the early 2000’s despite improved public awareness and treatment methods.
Direct contact with the sexual fluids, or the infected legions of another person with Syphilis is the primary method of infection. Syphilis can also be passed on by mothers to children in the womb. If you or your partner are pregnant and suspect the possibility of syphilis, consult your doctor for immediate screening and treatment.
Condoms and latex barriers are not a completely sure way of preventing Syphilis, due to its ability to infect any part of the body. Though the chances of infection are reduced due to the lowered contact area, the only sure way to avoid spreading Syphilis is to abstain from sex until you or your partner are completely treated for it.
Syphilis infection occurs in three distinct stages.
Primary Syphilitic infections generally manifest during 1-6 weeks after infection, and are most easily identified by one or more sores forming at the point of contact with the disease-bearing fluids. These most usually form on the genitals, anus, or inside of the mouth, but can form on any part of the body. In most cases of primary Syphilis, there will only be one sore, but multiple legions are not unheard of. These sores are usually hard, and will not hurt when touched. Treatment is generally easiest during this stage, and Syphilis may be completely cured with as little as a single dose of Penicillin G via intramuscular injection in its first few days after becoming apparent.
Secondary Syphilitic infections consist of highly infectious rashes, usually on the hands and feet of its victims. Rashes on the back, chest, and face have also been documented. Small wart-like protrusions may form along the anus, genitals, and other warm moist places of the body. During this stage of Syphilis, the disease is easiest to spread to others. Immediate treatment is desirable, as waiting for infection to spread further can result in significant damage to the heart, brain, bones, and other internal organs.
Tertiary Syphilis usually doesn’t appear until after a ‘latent’ period after Secondary infections, during which Syphilis can still be treated with therapeutic medication. The latent period may last from one to ten years.
During tertiary infection itself, the body suffers intense permanent damage, usually in the form of massive, tumor-like growths appearing randomly throughout the body, displacing bone and organ alike to form. Treatment at this stage is highly dubious, as the damage inflicted by its formation will usually result in a menagerie of problems, from cardiovascular malfunction, to insanity.
Syphilis is easiest detected through testing of blood samples, though further testing may be required in some cases. If you or your partner feel you are at all at risk of Syphilis, or are showing signs of infection, seek help immediately. Syphilis is easiest to cure early, and acting fast to catch it is vital.