Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection or STI. It occurs when the bacterium Treponema pallidum enters the body through mucous membranes. Mucous membranes reside at openings in the body, including the genitals, and this is where diseases of this type are commonly contracted. Damaged skin, such as open sores, can also let the bacterium through. Although syphilis resembles AIDS in various ways, it is relatively treatable. Syphilis has three stages of development. The first two stages aren’t lethal, nor do they present with particularly dangerous symptoms. However, stage three can have devastating effects on the individual. Syphilis is one of the most common and most dangerous STIs. Antibiotics can successfully treat this illness. However, due to the variety of symptoms and the fact that syphilis can lay dormant for extended periods, it is often hard to detect. By paying attention to the following ten symptoms, it will be easy to conclude whether this specific disease is present.
Painless Sores and Ulcers
One of the symptoms of syphilis are small and painless sores or ulcers that develop on the body. This mostly occurs in the genital, rectal and oral areas, although the sores can appear on other body parts as well. Look at pictures of similar sores to work out whether syphilis is a possibility. These sores and ulcers will disappear without treatment after approximately six weeks. Medication can also get rid of them. On rare occasions, sufferers have only a few sores and may confuse them for symptoms of another illness.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
The second symptom of syphilis is the swelling of lymph nodes, mostly in the groin area. However, this can also happen all over the body, especially in the neck. Swelling is a common reaction of the lymphatic system whenever a foreign bacterium is present. If both of the previously mentioned symptoms are present, see a doctor immediately. Syphilis is easily stopped in its early stages. Sometimes, syphilis doesn’t cause sores, so it is important to look out for swollen lymph nodes.
The first and least harmful symptom of secondary syphilis is a rash, which usually appears on the soles of the feet and hands. The rash looks somewhat like the previous painless spots, but soon begins to itch. The itching can continue for a long time. Rashes occur on the skin mainly due to the activity of the lymphatic system, which inflames the surrounding epidermis as it combats the disease.
Mucus patches are sores that appear on the surface of the mouth or genitals, the only two places on the human body that contain different kinds of glands. They can, however, appear on the parts of the body that are subjected to heat and moisture. The inhibition of secondary syphilis causes various changes in the tissue. These altered processes cause irregularities in mucus production. The skin surface can become clogged and blocked with mucus. When mucus is unable to breach the outer layer of skin, the constant production will make that area swell and become irritated. This condition will persist for the entire duration of syphilis.
Another symptom of secondary syphilis is condylomata lata, which is a skin condition that causes moist patches of skin to appear on and around the genitals. This impairment also affects the anus. The size and amount of these warts will vary, depending on the severity and progression of the disease that’s causing them. The warts feel extremely itchy, and scratching them causes pain. Laser removal is a viable but expensive treatment option. Additionally, once a doctor has removed all warts, the patient is not supposed to wear anything under their waist for approximately one week, which can be difficult.
Not long after the appearance of secondary syphilis symptoms, the sufferer will become feverish and weak. Anti-inflammatory medications can treat this symptom, although it will constantly return until syphilis is eradicated. Fevers occur during difficult illnesses because the body needs to maintain a constant temperature of about 36 degrees Celsius. Once the lymphatic system is engaged and the body is in full defense mode, blood streams much faster, causing the body to overheat. This unavoidably affects other organs and causes their functioning to weaken, making the sufferer feel rather ill and unstable.
Loss of Appetite
The second stage of syphilis causes appetite loss. This symptom generally comes after the symptoms already listed. With the brain and body focused on fighting the syphilis infection, the part of the brain that causes hunger is almost completely dormant. Not eating due to appetite loss can make other symptoms of syphilis worse, since the immune system needs proper nourishment to function.
Sufferers of secondary syphilis occasionally experience pain in their muscles. There are several possible reasons for this symptom. First, the white blood cells that combat the disease are also responsible for cooling muscles and keeping the tissue healthy. When these cells are recruited to the site of the syphilis infection, muscles are not kept in normal working order and can begin to ache. Second, the immune system produces cytokines when fighting diseases. These chemicals cause inflammation of muscles and joints.
The tertiary stage of syphilis can infect the brain, causing a condition known as neurosyphilis. After about 20 years without treatment, up to 40% of syphilis affected individuals start suffering from this symptom. Syphilis doesn’t only infect the brain, but also the entire nervous system, including the spinal cord. Neurosyphilis causes severe symptoms, such as dementia, abnormal gait, blindness, psychosis, seizures, depression, and atrophy. Doctors can also treat this condition with antibiotics, but the period of active infection can leave sufferers with permanent damage.
When the bacterium that causes syphilis infects the cardiovascular system, it can lead to numerous life-threatening complications. Cardiovascular syphilis is without a doubt the most potentially lethal symptom of this STI. It results in narrowing of the blood vessels, aneurysms, heart attacks, and valve damage that eventually results in heart failure. Cardiovascular syphilis causes irreversible damage, even though the infection is still treatable by antibiotics at this stage. Like neurosyphilis, this condition occurs after the disease develops for many years without treatment.