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Syphilis

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by Scholten A
 

Symptoms

Symptoms will depend on what stage the syphilis is in. There are four main stages.

Primary (First) Stage within 10-90 days of exposure

A single lesion will usually appear. It will occur in the area where the infection was originally passed. Common sites include the genitals, rectum, tongue, inside of the mouth, or lips.
It will start as a raised and painless lesion. It will gradually break down to form an ulcer. The ulcer is painless at first with raised edges. They usually last for 3-6 weeks. The ulcers will heal on their own.
Without treatment, the infection may move to the secondary stage. This can happen even if the ulcers are no longer visible.
Lymph Nodes
Male Lymph nodes
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Latency (Resting) Stage May Last for Years

The infection is still present but there are no symptoms. It may or may not progress to the third stage. Blood tests for syphilis will be positive during this stage.

Tertiary (Third or Late) Stage

This stage may begin years after the initial infection. This stage has become very rare in developed countries. In this stage, the infection begins to damage:
  • Brain and nerves
  • Eyes
  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Liver
  • Bones and joints
Damage can be serious enough to cause death. Symptoms include the following:
  • Small bumps called gummas on the skin, bones, or internal organs
  • Blindness
  • Central nervous system damage, including weakness, numbness, trouble walking, difficulty with balance, memory problems, and loss of bladder control

Congenital Syphilis

Babies born with this infection can have problems, such as deafness, cataracts, and seizures. It can also cause premature births or stillbirths.
Fetal Infection
DW00030 96472 1
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Syphilis testing is part of routine prenatal care. This is done to treat and prevent congenital syphilis.
 

Prevention

To reduce your chance of getting syphilis, take these steps:
It may not be obvious that a sex partner has syphilis. Do not assume your partner is healthy just because you do not see lesions.
 

RESOURCES

American Social Health Association
http://www.ashastd.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada Sexually Transmitted Infections
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
http://www.sieccan.org

 

References


Congenital syphilis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated October 24, 2011. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Latent syphilis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated September 6, 2012. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Syphilis. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/syphilis/understanding/Pages/default.aspx. Updated December 17, 2010. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Syphilis-CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm. Updated February 11, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Syphilis (primary phase). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated October 16, 2012. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Syphilis (secondary phase). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated October 16, 2012. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Syphilis (tertiary phase). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated March 12, 2012. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

 

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