If we were to make a hierarchy of STDs, syphilis would be second after HIV. Ignorance (primarily due to lack of information, but also indolence) makes this disease, although it comes from ancient times, to be extremely current, both young and older people falling victims to it.
Syphilis is sexually transmitted by contact with infected blood, but also by simple touch. The infection is caused by the bacterium “Treponema pallidum” and is part of the spirochetes family because of its spiral shape. It can penetrate the skin, manifesting later in the form of hard, red, painless pimples up to the moment of supra-infection, when they take the name of chancres (mucosa or skin wound), making their presence felt especially in the mouth, on genitals organs or in their immediate vicinity, so that in men can appear on the penis and on the scrotum and in women on the lips, vagina, urethra or perineum.
In both sexes, Chancres can be found in anorectal area, on the nipples, on the lips, tongue, tonsils or in the throat.
Statistically, the risk of infection following a single sexual contact with an infected person is quite high, meaning between 30 and 50%. It is easily transmissible through sperm or vaginal secretion.
Syphilis has no clear signs at the beginning, but once installed and untreated makes havoc in the body and then it can lead to a tragic end. The disease is slow and consists of several stages.
The incubation period (the time that elapses from the moment of contamination until the first signs of the disease) is between 10 and 90 days, often showing no clinical or biological symptoms.
The primary stage or primary syphilis, initially manifests as chancre (the appearance of lesions) and a few days it consists in inguinal swollen lymph (in the venter). Syphilitic chancre from the first period has dimensions between 0.5 and 2.5 cm and generally has a round shape, without presenting suppurations. It can go unnoticed, especially in women where it usually occurs in non-visible areas: cervix or vagina. In men, it has an external manifestation and can be seen with greater easiness. There are rare cases where these little “red blisters” appear on the fingers, the hands, the feet, the breasts or lips. In case of lip surface, the rash can be easily confused with an innocent herpes. These are eventual “signs” of the primary period (depending on each individual) and can last between 30 and 60 days.
Secondary stage or secondary syphilis can last for a period of 2 to 3 years, and it often starts with all symptoms of the first stage disappearing spontaneously. At the same time, it is the point where the pathogen attacks the body fluids. During this period, the infected person is a real danger to those with whom he or she comes into contact. Oral saliva, blood, sperm or vaginal secretions become infectious, the internal organs are affected. Some individuals also experience some weight loss due to loss of appetite or nausea states. Possible headaches or pain in the joints, bones, muscles are recorded and also bouts of fever. Inflammation of the eyes or unexplained hair loss are symptoms that can also be easily associated with other diseases, but syphilis. Specific to the secondary stage are also the rashes on the entire body surface. The syphilis roseola is found mostly in the upper part of the arms and thighs, while it forms papules on the genitals, soles or palms. In the secondary stage, the symptoms are difficult to overlook, finally causing a number of serious questions concerning health and finally leading to the discovery of the disease.
Therefore, if you notice changes in the skin, swollen glands or any of the aforementioned phenomena, it is necessary to go to the doctor urgently in order to obtain the most correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Ignoring these signs only causes this disease to continue to develop rapidly, even if in the final phase of this evolutionary period, the most obvious signs also disappear spontaneously. Attention! Each of the three stages of this disease ends with a “disappearance” of the specific symptoms, for then reappearing, unfortunately, with even more complications.
The tertiary stage or tertiary syphilis can last between 3 and 20 years, representing a stage in which the disease becomes latent. If the infected person did not take due account of the signals that appeared during the first years, when they were clear and safe, in the interval of the third stage, the infection works relentlessly, advancing with quick steps and safely to the last stage of the disease.
The period of late syphilis. The damage is immense and affects the whole body: bone, cardiovascular and nervous system. The internal organs are also severely affected. It can cause heart disease, brain and vertebral damage or even blindness. If not suffering a miscarriage, pregnant women carry out their pregnancies with extremely serious consequences on the newborn. In this case, we can speak of congenital syphilis.
We have seen the typical stages of this disease and what are the consequences in case we take no action to treat it. As we said in the opening, it is an infection “as old as the world” with consequences more than serious. However, there are still many people who, either out of ignorance or negligence or because they rely on the principle that “time solves them all”, let things evolve to a point where you can no longer do much. Just because it is highly contagious, any of us can easily contact such disease. Shame is pointless in such situations and going to a specialized doctor is mandatory.
People who get infected with Syphilis are required (be it morally) to inform all their sexual partners about it, so that they can be tested and treated properly.
As a means of protection against infection, the most effective is the CONDOM. Because there is the possibility that the disease has affected also the skin, the easiest prevention is the ATTENTION to people you get in contact with.