The STD syphilis is caused by a spiral shaped bacteria Treponema pallidum. This bacteria moves throughout the body by splitting in two about once every day. The first sign of this disease is in the form of a chancre that normally forms on the genital area. If untreated, the chancre will heal but the disease will still progress throughout the body causing complications and in some instances death.
Syphilis can be transmitted to another person during vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex or by coming into contact with the sores on an infected individual. It enters the body by penetrating the mucous membranes or any small cracks in the skin. Infected pregnant mothers can pass it to their fetus.
Syphilis has many stages with each stage exhibiting different symptoms. The first stage is characterized by the formation of a chancre on the genital area. The chancre is a dark pink color and does not bleed easily. Also, the appearance of the chancre can vary greatly and may not necessarily be a single lesion. If left untreated, the chancre will heal on its own but the disease will progress.
The secondary stage of syphilis occurs after the chancre has healed. Secondary lesions then begin to form on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet but other areas can be infected as well. Other symptoms include a sore throat, low grade fever, headache and rash. The appearance and location of the rash can vary and it does not itch. If left untreated, these secondary lesions will heal and the other symptoms will disappear but syphilis will continue to progress.
The third stage is known as latent syphilis and can last for years after the initial infection. In most cases, there are no noticeable symptoms of this stage of syphilis. Because of this, many assume the disease has cured itself and it goes untreated.
Late syphilis may emerge in any area of the body as late as 30 to 50 years following the initial infection. Late syphilis can take the form of late benign syphilis, cardiovascular syphilis, and neurosyphilitic disease. A patient can have one or any combination of these forms of syphilis.
Late benign syphilis is the most common form of late syphilis. It is characterized by harmful ulcers forming on or in the affected organs. It may also affect the skin, liver, digestive tract, muscles, eyes and endocrine organs. If they are treated, these ulcers will heal and a patient should recover fully.
Cardiovascular syphilis results in damage to the heart and the major blood vessels. It is often fatal. In neurosyphilitic disease the central nervous system is adversely affected which generally results in paralysis and insanity.
Syphilis is treated with antibiotics, including penicillin. It is preventable by practicing safe sex and using a condom. It is easy to prevent and treat but if left untreated can be deadly.