What Is Syphilis?

Syphilis is an infection caused by a bacterium called Treponema Pallidum. Syphilis is one of the sexually transmitted infections ( STIs ). Generally, this infection spreads through sexual contact with an infected person. Besides through ultimate relationships, the bacteria that cause syphilis can also spread through exposure to the body's fluids, for example through blood.

In general, direct contact occurs through sexual relations. This sexual relationship can take the form of vaginal, anal, or oral sex. In addition, sharing needles can also transmit this disease infection, both to injecting drug users and to those who love art, such as tattoos and ear piercing.

Transmission of syphilis can also occur from a pregnant woman to the baby she contains. This condition is known as congenital syphilis. Infant mortality in the womb can occur because of this infection.

The bacteria that cause syphilis cannot last long outside the human body, and this disease cannot be transmitted by the following methods:
  • Using the same toilet as a person with syphilis.
  • Share the same cutlery.
  • Wear the same clothes.
  • Share the same swimming pool or bathroom.

The first symptoms of syphilis appear about three weeks after the bacteria enter the body. Syphilis infection is divided into four main stages, including:

Primary syphilis 
Syphilis sufferers experience symptoms that begin with lesions or sores on the genitals or in and around the mouth. Wounds that occur are shaped like insect bites but do not cause pain. At this stage, if an infected person has sex with another person, transmission is very easy. This wound lasts for 1-2 months. In the end, these lesions will heal without leaving a mark.

Secondary syphilis 
People with secondary syphilis will experience a red rash the size of a small coin and usually this rash appears on the palms and soles of the feet. Other symptoms that may appear are fever, decreased appetite, sore throat and genital warts. This phase can last for one to three months.

Latent syphilis 
After the phase of secondary syphilis, syphilis seems to disappear and cause no symptoms at all. This latent period can last around two years before then proceed to the most dangerous period in syphilis infection, namely tertiary syphilis.

Tertiary syphilis 
If the infection is not cured, syphilis will develop to the final stage, namely tertiary syphilis. At this stage, the infection can have a serious effect on the body. Some of the consequences of infection at this stage are paralysis, blindness, dementia, hearing problems, impotence, and even death if left untreated.

Syphilis is most easily transmitted in the primary and secondary syphilis stages. If you feel infected with syphilis, immediately consult a doctor or clinic specializing in venereal disease to ensure a diagnosis of syphilis. The faster syphilis is treated, the less likely it is that syphilis develops into a serious disease.

Treatment for Syphilis 
Treatment of syphilis is very easy to do. The general treatment is to use antibiotics in the form of penicillin injections. If not treated, syphilis can be a dangerous disease and can lead to death.

Syphilis sufferers who are on treatment must avoid sexual intercourse until the infection is confirmed to have been fully cured.

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Symptoms of Syphilis 

Syphilis sufferers can easily transmit the disease because many of them only experience mild symptoms so they are not aware that they have been infected. Symptoms of syphilis develop according to the stages of syphilis experienced.

Symptoms in Primary Syphilis 
The most common symptom in primary syphilis is the appearance of a wound or ulcer. This wound appears 10-90 days after the bacteria enter the body. These sores are often ignored by syphilis sufferers because they do not cause pain. This wound develops in parts of the body where the bacteria first enter, such as the penis, vagina, or around the anus. This wound can also appear on the lips or mouth, tonsils, and fingers.

Wound recovery takes around three to six weeks. In most syphilis sufferers, only one wound appears, but there are also those who experience more than one injury. In addition, primary syphilis can also be characterized by swollen glands in the neck, armpit, or groin. Syphilis will move to the second stage if it is not treated early.

Symptoms in Secondary Syphilis 
A few weeks after the wound disappears, symptoms of secondary syphilis will appear. Rashes can appear anywhere on the body, especially on the palms and feet. Other symptoms are genital warts. Especially for women, warts can appear around the vagina. While the appearance of warts around the anus can be experienced by men and women.

Symptoms similar to flu can also appear. Patients will experience fatigue, headaches, joint pain, and fever. In addition, weight loss and hair loss can occur. The lymph gland also experiences swelling.

These symptoms will last for several weeks, and can appear and disappear repeatedly over the next few months. If secondary syphilis is not treated properly, the infection will continue to the next stage.

Symptoms in Latent Syphilis 
At this stage bacteria remain, but syphilis does not cause any symptoms. During the first 12 months of latent syphilis stage, infection can still be transmitted. After two years, the infection is still in the body, but it cannot be transmitted to other people. This stage can take years.

If not treated properly, latent syphilis can turn into tertiary syphilis (the most dangerous stage of syphilis).

Symptoms in Tertiary Syphilis 
About 30 percent of untreated syphilis sufferers will experience tertiary stages. Symptoms of tertiary syphilis begin several years after the first infection infects the body. Parts of the body where the first syphilis bacteria enter affect the symptoms experienced.

At this stage, syphilis can be very dangerous and even cause death. Tertiary syphilis can affect the eyes, brain, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. As a result, sufferers can experience blindness, stroke, or heart disease due to this sexually transmitted infection.

Symptoms in Congenital Syphilis 
Women who are pregnant and suffering from syphilis can transmit the infection to their fetus. This risk can be reduced if the woman is treated before pregnancy reaches four months. If left untreated, the following complications can occur:
  • Babies are born with syphilis
  • Babies born prematurely
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth or the baby dies in the womb
  • Infant mortality shortly after birth
Babies born with congenital syphilis in life usually do not have any symptoms. But there is the possibility of the appearance of a rash on the palms and soles of the feet. Symptoms that may develop in children born with syphilis are:
  • Hearing problems
  • Flat living stems
  • Deformation of teeth
  • Deaf
  • Abnormal bone growth
Consult your doctor if you have syphilis and are pregnant.

Syphilis Diagnosis 

Immediately ask your doctor or clinic for venereal disease if there is a possibility that you have been infected with syphilis. If syphilis is treated and treated quickly, dangerous complications can be avoided. The opportunity for full recovery is also getting bigger.

Initially, the doctor will ask for complaints about the symptoms you experience before carrying out the overall physical examination. Especially checks around the genitals and also the anus. They will also check for rashes and skin growth in the mouth and throat.

In addition, your doctor may advise you to do the following tests:

Blood test 
After the physical examination is complete, then a blood test is performed to confirm the presence of syphilis infection in the patient's body. Blood tests can detect the presence of antibodies produced by the body to fight syphilis. Antibodies against syphilis bacteria will remain in the body for years.

One specific blood test to detect the Treponema pallidum bacteria is the Treponemal Antibody Test. People with positive test results will almost certainly be diagnosed with syphilis. However, this test will still provide positive results for years after syphilis is treated. Therefore, to determine whether a person has syphilis at this time or in the past, an additional examination is called an RPR (Rapid Plasma Reagin). People who are suffering from syphilis will show positive Treponemal Antibody Test results with positive RPR.

Syphilis infection is very dangerous for babies in the fetus or newborn babies. Therefore, pregnant women are advised to do blood tests for syphilis. This test is usually done when the gestational age is between three to five months. If the diagnosis of syphilis is confirmed, treatment and treatment can be done as soon as possible.

Examination of wound fluid or ulcers 
If there is a wound, the doctor will take a little liquid from the wound as a sample for analysis in the laboratory. This test can only be done for primary or secondary syphilis, which is when there is a wound or ulcer. Liquid samples can indicate whether there are bacteria that cause syphilis.

Syphilis Treatment 

Penicillin is quite successful and can be used to treat primary and secondary syphilis. Penicillin is usually given by injection. There are other types of antibiotics that can also kill syphilis-causing bacteria if you are allergic to penicillin.

A penicillin injection can stop the progression of the disease if you have been infected for less than one year. For infections that last more than one year, you may need to add doses. Treatment is usually given for approximately 14 days, but can last longer in some cases.

In the case of tertiary syphilis, treatment takes longer and antibiotics are given by infusion. This treatment aims to stop infection, but cannot repair damage caused by tertiary syphilis.

In the case of pregnant women suffering from syphilis, the treatment taken is also similar, namely by using antibiotics. This drug does not affect the condition of the baby conceived.

In the initial period of antibiotic treatment, some syphilis sufferers can feel the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. This reaction arises from the spread of poisons from bacterial cells killed by antibiotic drugs. Symptoms include fever, headache, and pain in the muscles or joints. This is not a serious condition and usually only lasts one day. Paracetamol can be used to treat pain. But if the symptoms worsen, call your doctor immediately.

For women, some antibiotic drugs for syphilis can interfere with contraceptive methods that contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Contraceptives such as condoms can be used while undergoing antibiotic treatment.

After completing antibiotic treatment, you will be asked to undergo a blood test to ensure that the infection has been completely cured. You must remain vigilant because you can still be infected with syphilis again even though you have already been treated and cured.

Sharing the Story of a Couple 
If you are proven to have syphilis, immediately notify your spouse or ex-partner so that he can do the examination and receive treatment. If you feel embarrassed to talk about this disease with your spouse or ex-spouse, ask for advice from a doctor or health clinic specialist in venereal disease. It is better for you to tell your partner about syphilis. If this disease is not treated, it can eventually lead to death.

Complications due to Syphilis 
Syphilis can cause a number of complications if left untreated. Syphilis can also increase the risk of a number of diseases that include:
  • Nervous disorders, such as stroke, meningitis, hearing loss, visual disturbances, impotence, and bladder disorders.
  • Heart disorders, such as swelling of the aorta, aneurysm, vascular disorders, and damage to the heart valve.
  • Infection People who suffer from syphilis and frequently changing partners have twice the risk of HIV infection than ordinary people.
  • Pregnancy and fetal disorders. Pregnant women who suffer from syphilis can transmit this disease to babies who are in the womb.
  • Small lump or not. This condition can appear on the skin, bones and liver or other organs.

Prevention of Syphilis
Faithful with a partner is the most effective way to prevent syphilis infection. Condom use can be done as an alternative security measure in an effort to reduce the risk of transmission of syphilis, especially among sex workers. Even so, contraception is limited in preventing transmission. Syphilis can still be transmitted through oral sex. This occurs when the mouth is in direct contact with a wound on a sexually infected sex organ.

It is very important to use a condom when having oral, vaginal and anal sex. Use a dental dam when having oral sex. Dental dam is a piece of fabric from latex. This tool functions as a barrier between the mouth and intimate organs so that transmission of sexual infections can be prevented.

Don't have oral, vaginal, or anal sex until the treatment of syphilis is done with anyone. This is because you will be at risk of being infected again if you are dealing with someone who has multiple sexual partners or even you can transmit the infection to other people.

Syphilis can also be transmitted without having to go through sex. If you are injecting drug users or fans of body art (such as piercing and tattoos), never share needles with other people. You are advised to always use sterilized needles.

The last but not least, it is important for pregnant women, especially those who have a history of contracting syphilis beforehand to do blood tests to detect syphilis. This test is usually done when the gestational age is between three to five months and will be repeated periodically if the results are positive.

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