Healthy Living

Is Syphilis an STD?

Is Syphilis an STD?

Key Takeaways

  • Overview of STDs
  • Definition of syphilis
  • Signs and symptoms of syphilis
  • Treatment and prevention

What is STD?

Sexually transmitted disease, or commonly known as STD, is a type of disease that gets transmitted through sexual contact. AIDS is a primary example of STD. 

Most STDs don’t have any obvious symptoms on the onset, aside from the usual symptoms present in a common cold or rash. However, the end stages of such diseases are severe, including death or lifelong problems such as paralysis or infertility. In pregnancy, some STDs can be transmitted to the baby, resulting in stillbirths or babies with in-born diseases. This is due to the virus, bacteria, or parasites passed on from the mother.

Currently, the most dangerous among STDs is AIDS. This is because, until now, there is no documented treatment for AIDS. There are numerous ways of disease transmission, such as oral, vaginal, and anal sex - sometimes even kissing. 

According to a recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Infection, approximately 19.7 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases are being reported in the U.S. The most probable age group to contract an STD is 15-24 year-olds. Each year, at least 1 in 4 teens is infected by STD. According to statistics in 2010, almost $15.6 billion was spent on diagnosis and treatment of STDs. Approximately 15% of infertility cases in women can be attributed to untreated STI (sexually transmitted infection). All these statistics prove that STD is becoming a huge problem among teens. 

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial disease mostly affecting the vagina in women or penis in men. It is characterized by chancre in the vagina, anus, penis, oral cavity, and lips. It is transmitted through sores, mostly in the primary and secondary stages. It progresses in the following four stages: 

(1) Primary: Syphilitic sores or ulcerations in the vagina, penis, or in the mouth which disappear on its own within a few weeks.

(2) Secondary: Ulceration on the palms of hand and soles of feet which continue for a few months, and this is also the most infectious stage.

(3) Latent: In this period, the bacteria remain in dormant stage, and there are no physical symptoms.

(4) Tertiary: The most dangerous stage which is characterized by dementia, deafness, paralysis, tumor formations (syphilitic gumma), or aneurysms.

Syphilis is a chronic disease that remains undiagnosed due to absence of symptoms or the symptoms similar to those of common diseases. That is why syphilis is sometimes called “the great imitator.” The causative agent of syphilis is Treponema pallidum. Diagnosis is usually done by blood tests or direct testing. Direct testing includes examination of the serous fluid from the chancre under dark microscopy. We have the means to treat syphilis but the problem lies in diagnosis. Due to absence of symptoms or the awkward places of sores, the disease usually goes undiagnosed. In 2013, almost 315,000 people got infected by syphilis and men are at risk six times higher than women, due to men having sex with men.

Syphilis is an STD

As mentioned above, a sexually transmitted disease is the type that gets transmitted via sexual contact. Syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact. When a healthy person comes in contact with syphilitic sores in the vagina or penis, the serous fluid from the chancre is responsible for spreading the disease. Thus syphilis is a kind of STD. There are numerous ways of spreading syphilis but mostly through sexual activity. 

Here are some of the ways to prevent syphilis from spreading: 

(1) Vaccine - Currently unavailable but there are a number of research underway

(2) Try to avoid sex, especially unprotected sex, as well as having multiple partners

(3) Use preventive methods such as latex condoms for men or vaginal caps for females

(4) Get tested in an STD testing center for early diagnosis (better prognosis)

(5) Testing pregnant women for syphilis early in the pregnancy gives a better chance for treating those who are infected and preventing congenital syphilis from happening.

Understanding syphilis

Having a better understanding of syphilis is very important. Yes, it is a sexually transmitted disease, and that is why it spreads through sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Mere contact with the sores, warts, and surfaces of infected areas is enough to spread the infection to another person. 

Taking precaution is as important as knowing the symptoms. Instead of being ashamed of it, it is better to accept the situation and be open about taking the necessary treatment and staying away from your partner. Containing it within yourself, without taking diagnostic tests and treatment, is not the idea. It is important that you take the right steps to cure yourself and not pass the virus on to other people. Prevention is key.

If pregnant women contract syphilis, they can pass the virus to their unborn child, which may show up in child birth, causing complications for the baby.

Treatment and Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. Be aware that STD, if left unattended and untreated, could infect people in severe ways and can even lead to long-term complications. 

The bacteria treponema pallidum is responsible for this infection. When you see early warning signs, get medical help immediately, even if they’re just rashes, redness, small sores, or warts in the genital area. Touching them or coming in contact with the infected area is enough to spread the infection to another person. 

Though initially its symptoms may be painless, mild, or even unnoticeable, in later stages, people can end up with severe joint ailments, blindness, neurological issues, or even death. Thus it is important not to engage in any sexual activity if you are aware that you are infected. It may open doors to other infections and viruses. Kissing for prolonged periods of time could likely transfer the infection from the sores in the infected person’s mouth to his/her partner. 

Measures to prevent transmission would include sexual abstinence, use of condom, regular check-ups and screenings, antibiotics, penicillin, and other prescribed medication. Aside from proper monitoring, these tips could come in handy to prevent primary, secondary, or tertiary infections. Staying safe and clean means taking extra care and precaution every step of the way. Awareness and prevention are the always the best way to go.