Syphilis is another common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum. It is mostly transmitted during sexual contact with an infected person.
It usually starts as sores known as chancres but with no pains and they occur in four different stages with varying symptoms. The sore can occur in the vagina, lips, rectum and mouth.
Syphilis is highly contagious and easily contacted during sexual activities and also passed through hot kisses and close body contact.
Moreover, one interesting aspect of syphilis as a sexually transmitted infection is that it has a cure which when treated can be resolved within few months. Since it is is a bacterium, the use of antibiotics is the best way of treating it. Early treatment with penicillin can cure syphilis. But this does not mean one cannot contact syphilis again if a person is exposed to the bacteria after being treated.
Syphilis is very hazardous in pregnant women and every pregnant woman should ensure that she is treated for this infection for her safety and the safety of the baby.
Syphilis is a chronic infection that can lie dormant for as long as 30 years before developing to the tertiary stage. And at this stage it has very severe effects causing damages to the organs and extending to the brain.
If it is not being treated at the early stage it can result in a fatal condition which can lead to death. In 2015, deaths caused by syphilis were about 107,000 (one hundred and seven thousand).
In Nigeria less than 100,000 (one hundred thousand) cases of syphilis are reported every year.
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Treponema pallidum, a bacterium that is transmitted through direct contact with a sore on the skin or affected area and also in mucus membranes.
What causes Syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by the transmission of the T. pallidum bacteria from an infected person to another during sexual affairs or direct contact.
It is also caused by mother to child infection by passing the bacteria to the fetus during pregnancy.
Risk factors of Syphilis
- Unprotected sex: Engaging in sexual activities without use of safety wears exposes the person to an increased risk of contacting the bacterium.
- STIs: Persons with already existing sexually transmitted infections in their body such as people with HIV are also at risk of developing the bacterium causing syphilis. The sores also caused by syphilis also increase the risk of contracting other STIs.
- Sexual partners: People that have more than one sexual partners without knowing their syphilis status are also at an increased risk of syphilis.
- Homosexuals: Men that engage in sexual affair with other men also with women (lesbians) are also at an increased risk of contracting syphilis.
Stages of syphilis and their symptoms
There are four stages of syphilis namely the primary, secondary, latent and the tertiary stage
At the primary stage of syphilis, a painless sore called chancre develops at the area that the bacterium enters the body. This usually occurs within 3 weeks of infection but can prolong to up to 90 days. At this stage a person is highly contagious.
- Men develop chancre in the genital part, usually on the penis.
- Women develop chancres on the outer genitals or on the inner part of the vagina and also opening of the uterus (cervix). And if it occurs inside it may not be noticed by the carrier.
- Swelling of lymph node around the chancre
- Chancre lasts for up to 6 weeks and heals automatically.
At the secondary stage of syphilis the carrier develops rashes that appears 2 to 8 weeks after the development of the chancres. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms and at this stage the infection has spread all over the body hence rendering a person highly contagious.
The rashes heals without scarring within 2 months after that skin discoloration develops but the infection is still in the body and can still be transmitted.
- Reddish brown, solid, small, flat and raised skin sore rashes
- Rashes usually affects the palms, soles on the feet.
- Small open sores on mucus membranes
- Light coloured sore on dark skinned persons.
- Sore throat
- Swelling of the lymph node
- General body weakness and discomfort
- Fever of temperature less than 101 F (38 C)
- Hair loss on the eye brow, eye lashes and the scalp hair
- Neck stiffness
- Unequal reflexes
Latent (hidden) Stage
The latent stage of syphilis occurs if it has not been treated at the secondary stage. At the latent stage there are no visible signs after the rashes have been healed. It can last up to 1 year or can still extend to 20 years. A person is still contagious at this stage.
At this latent stage some people experience a relapse of the secondary stage. Relapse here means a person that has passed through the secondary stage without any symptoms and develops a secondary stage symptoms at the latent stage. And it may occur repeatedly.
When there is no longer relapse the person is no longer contagious through contact.
A pregnant woman at the latent stage is liable to transfer the infection to the fetus and this can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or delivery to a baby with congenital syphilis.
Tertiary (late) Stage
This is a very fatal stage of syphilis and very destructive if left untreated. It can occur a year after infection or anytime as the infection stays in the body.
Symptoms usually lead to complications and they are;
- Cardiovascular effects: This causes damage to heart and the blood vessels
- Gunmata: Large sores on the skin or inside the body
- Neurosyphilis: This causes damage to the nervous system.
Symptoms of Neurosyphilis
- Poor mental health or dementia
- Headache and seizures which can result in epilepsy
- Eye disease
This is usually transferred from mother to child through the placenta during pregnancy and during delivery. It leads to neonatal death, low birth weight, preterm etc.
- Difficulty in gaining weight
- Watery nasal fluid
- Blisters on hand
- Rash on genitals, anus and mouth
- Saddle nose – the bridge of the nose misses
Other older infants experience
- Pains in bones
- Hearing loss
- Swelling of joint
- Loss of sight
- Grey patches around the vagina and anus
- Scarring on skin
- Saber shin
Medical ways of treating syphilis
It can be treated medically by use of antibiotics. Penicillin is the mostly used antibiotics and its dosage depends on the stage.
Pregnant women should ensure that they get rid of the infection before delivery.
Natural ways of treating syphilis
- Use of heart-leaved moonseed: This natural therapy is a native Indian shrub that has been confirmed to cure lots of disease such as cancer, diabetes, gonorrhea and anaemia.
The moon seed contains anti-toxic properties, anti-HIV effects, anti-microbial properties, anti-cancer etc.
Consume the aqueous content extracted from the stem three times daily for 8 weeks and you will see a positive result.
- Chrysanthemum: This herb has also been proven to treat varieties of infections and disease. It contains anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial properties etc.
Get the bark of the chrysanthemum plant grind to extract the liquid or cut into small bits and dilute in alcohol.
- Ginger : This is another natural and popularly known antibiotics. It contains antioxidants and antimicrobial properties which help to fight bacteria in the body. It can be used as spice or grinded to extract the liquid. Other therapy in this category are turmeric, oregano, apple cider vinegar etc.
- Desert wormwood: This has been proven to be a natural cure for syphilis. Helps in treating nervous disorders, inflammatory and infectious disease.
Other natural therapy for syphilis are;
Tamarind: Also proven to provide a cure for syphilis
Asteraceae: This has been used as a therapy for diarrhea, syphilis, cough and headache.
Mix it with moon seed and grind. Consume up to 4 grams of the powder 2 times daily. It can be morning and evening.
Cypriol: This has also helped in treating many contagious disease such as epilepsy, gonorrhea, hepatitis B etc.
Mugwort, Indian sarsaparilla.