Like with many other types of sexually transmitted diseases, a person may not exhibit any kind of syphilis symptoms for a prolonged period of time. However, even if there are no syphilis symptoms, that does not mean there isn’t internal damage to the body.
What is syphilis?
- Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused as a result of the transmission of bacteria called Treponema Pallidum. It is often called the “great imitator” because so many of the syphilis symptoms are like other diseases, which makes it difficult to distinguish from other infections.
- Syphilis is transferred from person to person during any kind of sex act when there is direct contact with the syphilis sore, which can be found on the mouth, genital region, anus and rectum.
- However, syphilis can’t be transferred through inanimate objects like toilet seats and door handles because the bacteria cannot survive outside the body.
- It is important for sexually active teens to remember that often times a person does not exhibit syphilis symptoms even if they are infected. Transmission of the infection can still occur, even if the person is not showing any outward signs or syphilis symptoms. Spreading the disease is even more likely at this point because the person does not know they are infected and may risk having unprotected sex.
- During the first stage of infection, the infected person usually develops one single sore called a chancre. However, in some cases there might be multiple sores. The sore typically occurs about 10 to 90 days after infection. The sore is found to be small, firm and round and doesn’t usually hurt. This is the spot where the syphilis entered the body. The sore/chancre lasts about three to six weeks and will heal without treatment. However, if it is not treated, the syphilis will advance to the second stage of the disease and will continue to cause internal complications.
- The second stage of syphilis symptoms usually consist of a skin rash and mucous membrane lesions across the body. The rash typically appears shortly after the healing of the chancre from the first stage. The rash looks like a rough reddish brown and might be seen on the palms and bottoms of the feet. However, other rashes may appear on other parts of the body, but will look slightly different.
- If the syphilis symptoms still are not treated, other and increasingly worse symptoms will occur. This may happen 10 to 20 years after infection as a result of the damage done to the body’s internal organs during the latent years. These syphilis symptoms occurs in about 15 percent of cases: swollen glands, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, damage to the bones, brain, joints and organs. In some cases dementia may result. Sometimes these symptoms are severe enough to cause death.
- A woman infected with syphilis while she is pregnant can cause serious issues for her unborn baby. Depending on how long the mother is infected during pregnancy, the baby may be born stillborn or might die shortly after birth. The baby can also develop other signs and syphilis symptoms like seizures and delayed development if left untreated.
- Through the use of penicillin-based antibiotics, syphilis is easily treated within the first year of infection. However, additional antibiotics and medications are required for those who have been infected longer than a year. The disease becomes more and more difficult to treat the longer the infection.
- Do not continue to have sex with anyone until the sores are completely gone and the treatment process has finished to avoid continuing to spread the disease.
- All sexual partners should also be tested and treated for syphilis.
- Sexually active teens should keep in mind that just because an infected person may not show any symptoms they can still transfer syphilis.
- Teenagers having teen sex outside of a monogamous relationship with multiple partners, should know they are at a higher risk of contracting the infection even if there are no visible symptoms.
- The only way a person can ever 100 percent keep from contracting syphilis is to completely abstain from sexual acts containing genital to genital or mouth to genital contact or any other kind of contact that might expose them to a syphilis sore.
- Using a latex condom might help reduce the risk of contracting syphilis, however, it does not protect the areas it does not cover like the mouth or around the genital or anus. Often times, the syphilis sore that is known for spreading the infection can be found outside the area that is protected by a condom.