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Syphilis - 07/11/2008

Condoms & Syphilis

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It is a sexually transmitted diseases (STD) that is considerably hard to diagnose due to the fact that most of its symptoms resemble the symptoms of other diseases earning it the nickname of “the Great Imitator”. Syphilis is contracted through DIRECT contact with syphilis sore. A common misconception is that one can get syphilis from coming into contact with things that have preciously rubbed against a syphilis sore. This isn't true. Even if you share a toilet seat, clothing, and bed with someone who has syphilis you won't get infected unless you come into direct contact with the sore, which is only going to happen if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with that person. However, babies can also contract the disease from their mothers if the mom has syphilis while pregnant.

Symptoms of syphilis vary depending on the stage of the disease. During the primary stage small red sores, called chancre, appear on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. If left untreated the disease will progress to the secondary stage. During the secondary stage the main symptoms include a rough reddish brown skin rash and mucous membrane lesions. They are often accompanied by numerous other symptoms like fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. During the third stage or the late stage of the disease the bacteria will have infected organs such as the heart, brain, eyes, bones, kidneys and liver so that symptoms may include everything memory loss, vision problems, coordination problems, paralysis, dementia, and even death.

How is Syphilis Diagnosed?

During the primary stages syphilis can be diagnosed by getting a sample from the chancre and analysing it. Syphilis can also be diagnosed via blood tests wherein the presence of antibodies signify that there is syphilis bacteria being countered by the body. Diagnosis of syphilis in pregnant women is of utmost importance since, if left untreated, it could result to the death of the unborn child.

Treatment for Syphilis

Syphilis is very easy to treat during the primary and secondary stages. All that is needed is a penicillin shot to get rid of the bacteria. However, if a person has had syphilis for a long time that person might require a series of shots. For those allergic to penicillin there are other antibiotics that a doctor can give to treat the disease. Those in the late stages might need to be hospitalized and given an IV to be able to kill all the bacteria as well as deal with all the other complications that resulted from having syphilis.

Reducing the Risk of Getting/Spreading Syphilis

The only way to completely avoid contracting or spreading syphilis is abstaining from sex. However, you can also significantly reduce the risk by using condoms while having sex. Spermicides are not effective in killing the syphilis bacteria so that a condom is really the only way to prevent contracting it during sex.

 

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