According to the CDC, syphilis cases are rising again after reaching an all-time low in 2000. In fact, 133,945 new cases of syphilis of all stages surfaced in 2020. CDC further reports that cases increased by more than 7 percent in the past couple of years despite the pandemic.
The disease can result in dire consequences in the latter stages, but it’s treatable early on with antibiotics. Treatment with prescription drugs is necessary to resolve the condition.
Here’s everything you should know.
What Is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a chronic bacterial infection that develops from infection with the T. pallidum bacteria. It’s mostly transmitted through sexual contact of any kind with an infected individual. That’s because it enables people to come into direct contact with a syphilitic sore. Syphilitic sores appear on the skin or mucus membrane of a person’s genitals, lips, and mouth.
Though the condition is treatable in earlier stages, it’s difficult to diagnose as patients are likely to not have any symptoms.
Stages of Syphilis
Knowing the stage of syphilis is crucial in the treatment of the condition. There are four stages of syphilis listed below.
This stage occurs around three weeks after coming in contact with the bacteria. It develops as a small and painless chancre on the genitals or the mouth. However, some people might only have swollen lymph nodes.
In this stage, the patient develops rashes on their skin and a sore throat. The rash is usually located on the soles of feet or the palms and can be unassuming. The condition is typically mistaken for other conditions, like psoriasis.
People may also experience:
- Hair loss
- Pain in joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
In this stage, syphilis becomes dormant as the symptoms disappear. However, the bacteria still linger in the body, developing further. It can take years or even decades before it progresses to the last stage.
As the condition remains untreated, it progresses to the final and possibly fatal stage. Up to 40 percent of people with syphilis enter the tertiary stage.
People in this stage might experience:
- Hearing loss
- Heart disease
- Infection in the brain and spinal cord (neurosyphilis)
- Loss of vision
- Memory loss
- Multiple mental health conditions.
- Soft tissue and bone getting damaged.
If detected early, patients have more chances of successful treatment. Medical providers offer strategies depending on the bacteria. However, your doctor most likely will prescribe:
- Intravenous (IV) penicillin for neurosyphilis
- Penicillin G benzathine injection
- Doxycycline or ceftriaxone (in case the patient is allergic to penicillin)
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