Syphilis

Syphilis: Syphilis, also known as the Pox" and "Bad Blood", is caused by the bacterium
Treponema pallidun which is an organism passed through direct contact. Syphilis is
known as "the great imitator" because of the similarity between it's symptoms and that of
other infections.

Topics

 

Symptoms

The majority of individuals with Syphilis do not show symptoms for many years after
infection, yet they still are able to transmit the infection to others. There are three
different stages of Syphilis that have their own unique symptoms and risks.

Primary Stage symptoms:(Appear between 10 to 90 days after infection)

  • One or more Chancre Sores where Syphilis entered the body (firm, round, small,

and painless)

  • Lasts 3 to 6 weeks if not treated

Secondary Stage symptoms: (Appear as the Chancre is healing or several weeks later)

  •  Skin rash and mucous membrane lesions (rough, red, or reddish brown spots)
  •  Fever
  •  Swollen lymph glands
  •  Sore throat
  •  Patchy hair loss
  •  Headaches
  •  Weight loss
  •  Muscle aches
  •  Fatigue

Late Stage symptoms: (Begin when secondary symptoms disappear)

  •  Damage to internal organs (brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones,

and joints)

  •  Difficulty coordinating muscle movements
  •  Paralysis
  •  Numbness
  •  Gradual blindness
  •  Dementia

Cases

According to the Center for Disease Control, 32,000 cases of Syphilis were reported in
2002 including 6,862 cases of primary and secondary Syphilis. The incidence of
infectious syphilis was highest in women 20 to 24 years of age and in men 35 to 39 years
of age.

Transmission

Syphilis is spread through contact with a Syphilis sore found in areas such as vagina,
anus, rectum, mouth, or lips. It can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex and a
mother can pass it to their child during birth. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact
with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or
eating utensils.

Diagnosis

Syphilis can be diagnosed through examination of the material within the chancre sores
by a health care professional. This is done through a microscope called a dark-field
microscope. Blood tests can also be used to determine if an individual has antibodies
produced when there is a Syphilis infection.

Local Testing Available at:
  • Eastern Illinois University Health Service: Blood Test - $30
    • Phone: Phone: (217) 581-3013
  • Coles County Health Department: Blood Test - $15
    • 825 18th Street, Charleston, IL 61920
      • Phone: (217) 348-0530 Fax: (217) 348-5322
  • Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department: Blood test - Free with
    suggested $20 donation
    • 710 N Neil Street, Champaign, IL 61820
      • Phone: (217) 352-7961

Cure

Treatment of Syphilis is a dose of penicillin or antibiotics at the Primary and Secondary
Stage. If an individual has had Syphilis for longer then one year, additional doses will be
required to kill the organisms. Individuals who are receiving Syphilis treatment must
refrain from sexual activity until the sores have fully healed. In addition, they are
required to notify their partners of their diagnosis.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

The only 100% effective way to prevent Syphilis is to abstain from sexual activity and/or
activity involving genital contact. If you choose to be sexually active, being in a
monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected significantly reduces your
risk of infection. In addition, reducing your number of sexual partners can help to reduce
your risk. Syphilis is found in areas that can be covered by a latex condom, yet it can also
be found in areas that are not. Correct and consistent use of condoms can reduce your risk
of a Syphilis infection only if the condom covers the infected area. Individuals with
Syphilis should abstain from sexual activity with uninfected partners until after treatment.
It is important for both partners to be tested and treated for Syphilis to avoid reinfection .
Even if a person does not have any symptoms they can still infect sex partners.