Men and Women who are sexually active should be screened for STDs once a year, or visit a physician any time they notice changes or feel something isn't right.
- What is it?
Syphilis is a bacterial STD that is often called "the great imitator" because its signs and symptoms are difficult to distinguish from many other diseases.
- How is it transmitted?
Syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal or oral sex. These sores mainly occur on the outer genitals, vagina, anus or rectum. Syphilis sores can also occur in the mouth and on the lips.
- What are the symptoms?
Most people with Syphilis do not have any symptoms. Even the sores can go undetected. Syphilis usually occurs in stages:
Stage 1 — a person will have a single sore at the site of infection (called a chancre). It will usually heal without treatment.
Stage 2 — If the person does not get treatment, they will enter stage 2 which is marked by a skin rash and mucous membrane lesions. Other symptoms include weight loss, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue.
Late stages — If still not treated, a person with syphilis enters a latent stage that can last for years. This stage appears in about 15% of people not treated for the disease and can appear up to twenty years after infection. This is a very dangerous stage as the disease can damage internal organs including the brain. Muscle coordination impairment, blindness, paralysis and dementia — even death can result.
- How is it diagnosed and treated?
Examination of material from a sore under a microscope and/or a blood test. Syphilis is easy to cure in the early stages with penicillin or other antibiotics if a person is allergic.
- How can it be prevented?
Abstinence is the best way to avoid transmission. Men using a new latex condom during intercourse or when receiving oral sex, can reduce the chances of transmission. Latex dental dams used correctly can aid in transmission reduction for oral sex on a women or oral to anal sex. Remember, any part of the body that is not covered by a condom can pass the disease.
- You should know
Having Syphilis raises your chances of acquiring HIV if exposed.