Talk about sexually transmitted diseases usually bears moments of silence due to embarrassment. These numbers have been growing and I must say, it is the impact of the deadly HIV, being a sexually transmitted disease, that all the other STDs too have been regarded as very serious and incurable. The fact is that, we have a tendency to look at these diseases with one perspective. And that is with a lot of fear and a sense of taboo. Whereas, it is very important to gain knowledge about the particular disease, which includes the causes, symptoms and treatments as well. Here we are going to discuss a common STD (sexually transmitted disease), that is Syphilis. We will look at all the available treatments for syphilis and the prognosis of this disease. Let us first get some quick facts about this disease, so as to understand the treatment options in a better way.
Syphilis as mentioned above is a sexually transmitted disease, that is caused by the 'Treponema pallidum' bacterium. It is transmitted with any form of direct contact with the sore, that is during sexual intercourse. It is also been found that this may also be a congenital disease, transmitted from mother to baby. The signs and symptoms will depend on the stage of the disease. There are three stages of this condition: primary, secondary and latent or late stage. We will take a glimpse at the symptoms of each stage as the treatment will depend on the severity which is classified in these stages.
Signs and Symptoms
In the first and primary stage, the sign will be a chancre (a small sore) anywhere, especially on the genitals. This may be single or there may be multiple sores of this kind. They are not painful and last for about 3 to 6 weeks. In the secondary stage, small pink to reddish patches may emerge on the body, in a single or multiple places. These rashes may look like the healing chancre of the first stage, however, it may be dark red to brownish as well, and may be found on different parts of the body. The other symptoms are fever, swollen lymph nodes, patchy hair loss, fatigue and muscle pain, headache and also weight loss. The latent stage will have little or no symptoms, this is when the untreated primary and secondary symptoms have faded. And the bacteria gets rooted deep in the body but is not active. This may get active at any time. The damage however, due to this stage is more serious, it may hamper the effective functioning of many vital parts in the body like the heart, brain, nervous system, bones and joints, liver and blood vessels. With so many serious risks causing damages, the person may get symptoms of dementia, paralysis and numbness, etc.
Treatment is not tough, especially in the primary and the secondary stage. One must understand that this condition is curable, and with following certain guidelines, this can be tackled well. The best and the first choice for treatment is penicillin. A single dose of penicillin is effective enough for primary syphilis treatment. In certain cases where the patient is allergic to penicillin, there are antibiotics that are prescribed like Tetracycline, ceftriaxone and erythromycin. For the secondary stages there may be three doses of penicillin administered for the treatment. Certain cases of treatment of the secondary and contagious stage, may have side effects or reactions like sudden fever and headaches, sweating and rashes, etc., these are caused by the effect of the immune system fighting the bacteria, by releasing certain substances. This is also known as the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. This will normally fade away in a day. There also may be certain antibiotics that can hamper the effect of any contraceptive methods like birth control pills or combined pills. It is important to inform the doctor, if you practice any of these methods. For late stage infections, doses of penicillin are increased, and are also given for a long duration of time. The type of treatment administered for this stage is intravenous. The treatment has to be continued with long antibiotic courses. In case of damage to the organs in the third stage, the damage cannot be repaired. This treatment will only curb and kill the bacteria and prevent further progress.
Treatment in all the stages must be followed with routine blood tests, so as to confirm the complete destruction of bacteria in the body. The prognosis of this disease portrays a high risk of HIV transmission, and without proper treatment, the latent stage can be hazardous.
The best option is prevention. During the treatment, patients will have to abstain from any sexual activity, till the condition is cured, even in the primary and secondary stages. Once treated, preventive measures need to be followed. It is also advised that the sexual partners be tested for syphilis, depending on the stage of infection of the patient. In primary and secondary syphilis, sexual partners before 3 to 6 months of experiencing symptoms should be tested and treated. And in case of late stage syphilis, partners before 1 year of experiencing symptoms, must be tested and treatment should be followed.
Syphilis can recur even after complete treatment. So follow a safe sexual life and take appropriate measures for prevention. Talk to your partner about the disease, you may consult a doctor for further preventive course of action. Basics like maintaining hygiene and using a condom must also be followed.
It is wise to be aware of all these facts and it is definitely healthy to openly talk and discuss these sexual health issues. Your wise and timely concern and treatment is important to prevent any such complications of your overall health.