Syphilis

Name
Syphilis

Also known as
Lues, Syph

Caused by
Treponema pallidum

Type
Bacterial

Incidence
Over 150,000 new cases a year in the United States.

Symptoms

  • Primary Syphilis - A small red, pea-sized bump at the site of infection that soon becomes a round, painless sore known as a chancre. Because they are painless, individuals often do not notice them if they are internal (e.g. inside the vagina).
  • Secondary Syphilis - Flu-like symptoms as well as a skin rash that may resemble measles but neither itches nor hurts. After the symptoms of secondary syphilis pass, the person may have no symptoms for years.
  • Tertiary Syphilis - Gummas (large ulcers) that devastate the muscles, liver, lungs, eyes, and/or endocrine system; heart disease; neurosyphilis which effects the brain and spinal cord.
  • Congenital Syphilis - When passed to the newborn, if miscarriage does not occur, the infant is often born with brain damage, blindness, deafness, and/or deformities of the bones and teeth.
Incubation
The first appearance of symptoms will occur 1-12 weeks after exposure. If left untreated, symptoms of secondary syphilis will appear about 6 weeks after the chancre has disappeared. If continued to be untreated, the secondary symptoms will disappear within 2-6 weeks, beginning the latency stage. Tertiary symptoms appear years, sometimes decades, after the initial infection.

Diagnosis
Blood test for antibodies.

Complications
Untreated syphilis can eventually lead to brain damage, psychosis, heart disease, organ damage, paralysis, blindness, and death. In pregnant women, it can lead to miscarriage as well as sever birth defects (known as congenital syphilis).

Treatment
One-time injection of penicillin, or a derivative.

Appearance
penis infected with syphilis
Primary syphilis infection.


Secondary syphilis infection
Secondary syphilis infection.