The cause of syphilis, potentially dangerous but rare disease, is Treponema pallidum, which is transmitted by intercourse or some other form of sexual contact. Bacteria enter the body through the cut, scratch or through a moist membrane that coats the urethra, rectum, vagina and mouth.
The disease develops in several stages. In the first (primary) stage, a wound – chancre – is being developed at the point where the cause (of the infection) has penetrated the body. In men, chancre usually develops on the penis (or, in homosexuals, on anus), and in a woman on a vagina.
Chancre is painless and hard to touch. The appearance of the chancre can be accompanied by a painless increase of nearby lymph glands. Unfortunately, it is developing very slowly, in a fairly wide range of 9 to 90 days (so it is sometimes difficult to determine who infected you), and very often the patient will not even notice it. Chancre disappears by itself after a few weeks.
The second stage begins several weeks after the appearance of the wound. In approximately 75% of cases, non-itchy rash occurs throughout the body, including palms and feet. Painless swelling of lymph glands is also possible, as well as moist, warty scabs around the anus (though the anus does not have to be the origin of the infection) and, sometimes, under the armpits. A few weeks after that the rash spontaneously disappears and the disease enters the so-called latent phase that is not accompanied by any symptoms.
Thanks to antibiotics, chances that the disease will reach latent phase are extremely rare. In this phase, serious complications such as aortic insufficiency, aortic aneurysms or neurological problems may occur. Serious complications occur only in people who have not been treated (and, even then, only in about 30% of cases).
The numbers range from 7.4 to 22.5 per 100 000 inhabitants.
What to do?
If you notice any symptoms that may point to syphilis, go to your doctor or a medical institution specializing in sexually transmitted diseases. The diagnosis is based on the analysis of blood samples and material collected from the wound or rash. Avoid any sexual contact until you are completely cured.
Treatment is simple, and the infection disappears after two weeks of treatment with injections. However, in order to avoid possible recurrences, two years after treatment you will have to go to the blood tests regularly.