Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It is treatable in the early stages, but without treatment, it can lead to disability, neurological disorders, and even death. It can cause serious long-term problems such as arthritis, brain damage, and blindness. There wasn’t an effective treatment until the late 1940s, when the antibiotic penicillin was developed.
The bacterium Treponema pallidum (T. pallidum) causes syphilis. The four stages of the disease are: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that 43% of syphilis presentations involved men who have sex with men. However, the number of cases in heterosexual men and women is also increasing. According to the CDC, the rate of new cases of syphilis plummeted in the 1990s. In 2000, it reached an all-time low since reporting began in 1941. But the disease has been on the increase ever since.
Syphilis can be challenging to diagnose. Someone can have it without showing any symptoms for years. However, the earlier syphilis is discovered, the better. Syphilis that remains untreated for a long time can cause major damage to important organs, such as the heart and the brain.
Syphilis is caused by a bacterial infection. In 1905, German scientists discovered that the bacterium Treponema pallidum is responsible for the infection. At first, the bacterial infection has minimal to no symptoms. As time goes on, the infection progresses to affect multiple systems in your body, which can then have severe effects.
You get it through direct contact with syphilis sore on someone else’s body. This usually happens during sexual activity, but the bacteria can also get into your body through cuts on your skin or through your mucous membranes.
Syphilis can’t be spread by toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils
Stages- Syphilis infection has four stages:
Early or primary syphilis
People with primary syphilis get one or more sores called chancres. They’re usually small, painless ulcers. They happen on your genitals, on your anus or rectum, or in or around your mouth between 10 and 90 days (3 weeks on average) after you’re exposed to the disease. Even if you don’t treat them, they heal without a scar within 6 weeks. But treatment will keep your disease from moving to the next stage.
Skin rashes and a sore throat may develop during the second stage of syphilis. The rash won’t itch and is usually found on the palms and soles, but it may occur anywhere on the body. Some people don’t notice the rash before it goes away.
Other symptoms of secondary syphilis may include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Aching joints
These symptoms will go away whether treatment is received. However, without treatment, a person still has syphilis.
The third stage of syphilis is the latent, or hidden, stage. The primary and secondary symptoms disappear, and there won’t be any noticeable symptoms at this stage. However, the bacteria remain in the body. This stage could last for years before progressing to tertiary syphilis.
The last stage of infection is tertiary syphilis. About 14 to 40 percentTrusted Source of people with syphilis enter this stage. Tertiary syphilis can occur years or decades after the initial infection. Tertiary syphilis can be life-threatening. Some other potential outcomes of tertiary syphilis include:
- Loss of hearing
- Mental health conditions
- Memory loss
- Destruction of soft tissue and bone
- Neurological disorders, such as stroke or meningitis
The disease can be contagious during the primary and secondary stages and, occasionally, the early latent phase. It is contagious when open lesions or sores are present. Tertiary syphilis is not contagious, but it has the most severe symptoms.
The complication of syphilis-
It is a condition that develops when T. pallidum bacteria spreads to the nervous system. It often has links to latent and tertiary syphilis. However, it can occur at any time after the primary stage. A person with neuro-syphilis may be asymptomatic for a long time. Alternatively, symptoms might develop gradually.
- Dementia or altered mental status
- Abnormal gait
- Numbness in the extremities
- Problems with concentration
- Hearing loss
- Headache or seizures
- Vision problems or vision loss
Tertiary syphilis can lead to severe cardiovascular complications. These include-
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Aortic aneurysm
- Aortic valve insufficiency
Organ damage means that tertiary syphilis can often lead to death. Treating syphilis before it reaches this stage is, therefore, critical.
Congenital syphilis is severe and frequently life threatening T. pallidum bacteria can transfer from a pregnant person to a fetus through the placenta and during the birth process. Data suggests that around 40% of births to people with untreated syphilis result in early fetal or neonatal death.
An infected baby may be born without symptoms but could have them within a few weeks if the disease isn’t treated right away. These signs and symptoms can be very serious. Untreated babies may have delays in their development, have seizures, or die.
Syphilis can increase your chance of getting HIV.
Syphilis Diagnosis and Tests
Your doctor will need to do a physical exam. They might give you tests including:
Blood tests- A quick test at your doctor’s office or a public health clinic can diagnose syphilis.
Cerebrospinal fluid tests- If your doctor thinks you might have neuro-syphilis, they’ll test fluid taken from around your spinal cord.
Dark field microscopy- Syphilis bacteria are visible through a microscope in fluid taken from a skin sore or lymph node.
If a person receives a diagnosis of syphilis, they must notify any sexual partners. Their partners should also undergo testing.
Syphilis is curable with quick diagnosis and treatment. But if it’s treated too late, it can permanently damage your heart and brain even after the infection is gone.
The treatment strategy will depend on the symptoms and how long a person has harbored the bacteria. However, during the primary, secondary, or tertiary stage, people with syphilis typically receive an intramuscular injection of penicillin G benzathine.
Late latent and tertiary syphilis will typically require weekly injections for up to 3 weeks.
Neuro-syphilis requires intravenous (IV) penicillin for 2 weeks to remove the bacteria from the central nervous system.
Primary and secondary syphilis are easy to treat with a penicillin injection. Penicillin is one of the most widely used antibiotics and is usually effective in treating syphilis. People who are allergic to penicillin will likely be treated with a different antibiotic, such as: Doxycycline, Ceftriaxone.
During treatment, make sure to avoid sexual contact until all sores on your body are healed and your doctor tells you it’s safe to resume sex. If you’re sexually active, your partner should be treated as well. Don’t resume sexual activity until you and your partner have completed treatment.
Syphilis and Ayurveda-
According to Ayurveda, syphilisis described as “Firanga” disease. This communicable disease is again said to cause due to sexual contact with the infected person in Ayurveda. In this disease there would be imbalance between all three doshas i.e vata, pitta and kapha; still kapha would be more vitiated and even gets associated to other doshas. This vitiation leads to blockage and damage of major body parts that includes heart, kidney and brain. Ayurveda also mentions that low immunity can also be reason as well as repercussion of this disease.
Treatment of syphilis according to Ayurveda-
Ayurveda treats the possible root cause of a disease, after identifying the ‘body type’ to analyze the nature of the diseases. Ayurveda practitioners with the help of potent herbs manage the disease, which is natural, pure and safe to use and are not having any side effects.
Herbs Used for the Treatment of Syphilis
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – It is a wonderful herb and has great benefits for those with STDs like – Syphilis due to its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
Aloe Vera- The cooling effect of Aloe Vera gel is immensely soothing for a person with an STD. Aloe Vera exhibits anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial activity and can help hydrate your skin and may help with wound healing. It helps to manage the scars and wounds related to syphilis. Aloe Vera extract cream is very useful in Syphilis.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) – Neem possesses anti-microbial, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-septic properties and is very useful to relieve itching. Steep neem leaves in warm water and use this water to bathe, it will help you out in STDs. Diluted neem oil can also help in the case of rashes and warts.
Other ayurvedic formulations like Swarna bhasma, gandhak rasayan, Mahamanjistadi kwatha, Triphala churna, kanchanar guggul, Praval bhasma etc.
The course of the treatment depends on the stage of the syphilis. It may take three months to 12 months for the proper cure of the symptoms of the disease.
A healthy diet is also very important for the patients who are suffering from the syphilis. Patient should avoid bitter, sour and pungent food stuffs and diet should also be less salty. This would help to recover fast. Intercourse with any partner is prohibited.
How to prevent syphilis
The best way to prevent syphilis is to practice safe sex. Use condoms during any type of sexual contact. In addition, it may be helpful to:
- Use a dental dam (a square piece of latex) or condoms during oral sex.
- Avoid sharing sex toys.
- Get screened for STIs and talk with your partners about their results.
- Syphilis can also be transmitted through shared needles. Avoid sharing needles if using injected drugs.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can spread through sexual intercourse. It typically presents as discolored sores. However, people may not experience symptoms for many years. The standard treatment option for syphilis is penicillin. With correct management, the infection is curable. In ayurveda Syphilis is known as “Firanga”. It is a disorder of blood. The Kapha controls the circulation of blood.
So, according to Ayurveda the treatment of Syphilis is done as a vitiation of the Kapha Dosha. Ayurvedic herbs are very effective to kill the bacteria of syphilis and it cures the disease without any side effect. The ayurvedic medicines are also very safe to use for long term. The treatment cures the disease and it doesn’t means that a person can’t get infected again. So precautions are always needed.
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