Syphilis is an infection that is transmitted through sex. This sexually transmitted infection occurs when Treponema pallidum, a bacterium, enters the body. The bacteria are transmitted through the mucous membranes that are located at openings in the body. Syphilis resembles AIDS in a number of ways but is relatively treatable. Syphilis is a fairly common and dangerous sexually transmitted infection. There are four stages of the infection and the symptoms that a person has depends on what stage of development that it is in.
However, stages of syphilis can overlap and do not always develop in a particular order. Some people are infected with it and do not show any signs of it for years. For these reasons, syphilis is often difficult to detect. Paying attention to the following 10 symptoms can help you conclude whether this sexually transmitted infection is present so that you can get treatment as soon as possible.
1. Ulcers and Sores
During the first stage of syphilis the majority of people are likely to develop sores and ulcers These ulcers or sores are often quite painless and mostly occur in the oral, rectal, and genital areas. However, these sores may appear in other areas of the body as well. If you have unexplained sores on any area of your body it is a good idea to look at pictures of sores that are similar to determine whether or not syphilis is a possibility.
The ulcers and sores disappear on their own without any type of treatment within about six weeks. There is medication that can be taken to help get rid of them as well. In some cases, a person may only develop a few of these sores and may confuse them as a symptom of another illness. It is a good idea to see a doctor if you have unexplained sores on any part of your body.
2. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph nodes is one of the first signs that something is wrong in the body. When the lymph nodes begin to swell it is likely that you have an infection of some type. Syphilis causes the lymph nodes to swell. Typically, if a person is infected with syphilis it will be the lymph nodes located in the groin area that begin to swell. However, some people experience swollen lymph nodes in other areas of the body as well, including the neck.
If your lymph nodes are swollen and you have any of the other symptoms on this list, especially unexplained sores, you need to see a doctor right away. These are the first signs of the syphilis infection and during this time the illness can be easily treated when it is caught early. Since not all people develop sores with syphilis, looking for swollen lymph nodes is important.
When syphilis reaches the second stage a rash may develop. This rash will typically appear on the soles of the hands and the feet. The rash that appears will often look similar to the painless sores and ulcers that appeared during the primary stage. However, the rash that develops will often become quite itchy. This itchiness may continue for a very long time.
If you have previously had sores that went away and now have a rash on your hands and feet, you need to seek medical attention. The rash appears on the skin mainly because of the lymphatic system becoming inactive. This inactivity of the lymphatic system causes the surrounding epidermis to become inflamed as your body is trying to battle the disease. Remember, the sooner that treatment for the infection is started the better off you will be, so if you are experiencing any of these symptoms call your doctor
See Related Story: “Syphilis and Other STDs Are on the Rise After States Lost Millions to Treat Them”
4. Mucous Patches
The mouth and the genitals both contain different types of glands than any other part of the body. Mucous patches may appear on the surface of the genitals or the surface of the mouth when a person has been infected with syphilis. It is possible for mucous patches to appear on other parts of the body as well, especially those areas that are subject to moisture and heat. When secondary syphilis sets in it can cause different changes in the tissue to occur.
These changed processes may cause irregularities in the production of mucus. The surface of the skin may become blocked or clogged with this mucus. When the mucus cannot get through the outer layer of the skin it can cause the area to become irritated and swollen. This is one of the symptoms of syphilis that will not go away until it is properly treated.5. Genital Warts
Condylomata lata or genital warts is a condition that causes moist areas of skin to appear around and on the genitals. These patches may also affect the anus. This is another symptom of the secondary stage of syphilis. The number and size of these warts vary based on the progression and severity of the infection that is causing them. When warts appear they are often very itchy and when they are scratched it is extremely painful.
One treatment option that is available, but quite expensive is laser removal. Once warts have been removed by a doctor a person will not be allowed to wear anything under their waste for up to a week. This can be quite difficult to do. When it comes to syphilis it is best to catch it during the initial stage when the painless sores and swollen lymph nodes are first noticeable so that the infection does not reach the stage of genital warts.
When the body is fighting off any type of infection, chances are high that you are going to run a fever. When a person has been infected with syphilis, a fever is likely to occur. This typically happens not long after the secondary symptoms start to appear. A person may become quite weak and feverish during this stage of the illness.
A fever can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, but the fever will continue to come back until the syphilis is eradicated. Fevers are a symptom of many illnesses as the body needs to maintain a temperature that is constant. When the lymphatic system is fully engaged and the body enters full defense mode, the blood runs much faster. This causes the body to overheat. This will affect the other organs in the body and cause their functions to become weak, which can cause a person to feel quite ill.
7. Loss of Appetite
When you are not feeling well, it is likely that you are not going to want to eat much. One of the symptoms that may be caused by syphilis is a loss of appetite. A loss of appetite often occurs after the symptoms above have appeared. The body and brain are focused totally on fighting the infection. As the brain is focused on fighting off the disease, it will shut down different areas, including the part of the brain that causes a person to feel hungry.
While a loss of appetite may not seem like a big deal, it actually is because the immune system needs to be properly nourished in order to function properly. If a person is not providing the body with the nutrition that it needs, the other symptoms of the infection can become worse as the body does not have what it needs to fight off the infection.
8. Muscle Aches
Another symptom that person who has syphilis may experience is a pain in the muscles. While muscle pain is a common symptom of many different ailments, there are several reasons that a person with syphilis may experience muscle aches. When the body is combating an infection it produces white blood cells. These white blood cells are not only trying to fight off the infection, but they are also responsible for keeping muscle tissue healthy and cool.
When the white blood cells are called to the area of the syphilis infection, the muscles are not kept in working order and may start to ache. In addition, when the body is fighting off diseases it will produce cytokines. When there is an overproduction of cytokines it can cause inflammation in the joints and the muscles. When joints and muscles are inflamed, they become sore and achy and often over the counter medication does not help.
It is extremely important to note the symptoms above and get treatment for them as soon as possible. If left untreated, syphilis can cause other symptoms that are much more serious. One of the symptoms of the third stage of the infection is known as neurosyphilis. Roughly forty percent of those individuals who are infected with syphilis that is left untreated for several years suffer from this.
Syphilis will not only infect the brain, but can also infect the entire nervous system. This includes the spinal cord. When neurosyphilis can cause several severe health issues such as abnormal gait, psychosis, dementia, depression, seizures, and atrophy. While this symptom can be treated with penicillin, the amount of time an active infection has been in place can leave a person with permanent damage. This is why it is so important to catch the symptoms as early as possible and to get treated for the infection.
10. Cardiovascular Syphilis
Another problem with ignoring the early signs of syphilis and not seeking out treatment for the infection as soon as possible is that there is a chance that it can infect the cardiovascular system. When this occurs it can cause a number of complications that can become life-threatening. Cardiovascular syphilis is one of the worst side effects of this infection. This symptom can result in the blood vessels narrowing, which may cause aneurysms, valve damage, and heart attacks.
These can all lead to potential heart failure. When a person suffers from cardiovascular syphilis, the damage to the body is irreversible. While the infection can still be treated with penicillin, the damage is already done. Once again, this is a symptom that occurs when syphilis is left untreated for a long period of time, which is why it is so important to know the early signs of the illness and get treatment for it right away.
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