What is an STD?
Sexually transmitted disease, or commonly known as STD, is a type of disease that gets transmitted through sexual contact. AIDS caused by the HIV virus is a primary example of a sexually transmitted disease.
Most STDs do not have any obvious symptoms at the beginning, aside from the usual symptoms such as 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 stillbirth or babies with inborn diseases, which are due to the virus, bacteria, or parasites passed on from the mother.
Currently, the most dangerous among STDs is AIDS. The reason is that until now, there is no documented treatment for AIDS. There are numerous ways of disease transmission such as oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Although rare, STDs can also be transmitted through kissing, especially when there are cuts or open sores in the mouth.
According to a recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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 with STD. According to statistics in 2010, almost $15.6 billion was spent on diagnosis and treatment of STDs. Approximately 15 percent of infertility cases in women are attributed to untreated STIs (sexually transmitted infections). All these statistics prove that STD is becoming a huge problem among teens.
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection mostly affecting the vagina of women or penis in men. It is characterized by chancres in the vagina, anus, penis, oral cavity, and lips. It is transmitted through sores, mostly in the primary and secondary stages of the disease. It progresses in the following four stages:
- Primary - Syphilitic sores or ulcerations in the vagina, penis, or in the mouth, which disappear on their own within a few weeks.
- Secondary - Ulceration on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, which continue for a few months. This stage of the disease is regarded as the most infectious stage.
- Latent - In this period, there are no physical symptoms experienced since the bacteria remain in the dormant stage.
- Tertiary - The most dangerous stage, which is characterized by dementia, deafness, paralysis, tumor formations (syphilitic gumma), or an aneurysm.
Syphilis is a chronic disease that can be left undiagnosed due to the absence of symptoms or the similarity of its symptoms to those of common diseases. For this reason, syphilis is sometimes called as “the great imitator.” The causative agent of syphilis is Treponema pallidum.
Diagnosis is usually done by blood tests or direct testing. Direct testing includes the examination of the serous fluid from the chancre under dark microscopy. We have the means to treat syphilis but the problem lies in the diagnosis. Due to the absence of symptoms or the awkward location of the sores, the disease usually goes undiagnosed.
In 2013, almost 315,000 people were infected with syphilis. Men are at risk six times higher than women, due to men having sex with men.
Syphilis as 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 type of STD. There are numerous ways of contracting syphilis, but it is often transmitted through sexual activity.
Here are some of the ways to prevent syphilis from spreading:
- Sexual Abstinence - Try to avoid sex, especially unprotected sex, as well as having multiple sex partners.
- Using Protective Barriers - Use preventive methods such as latex condoms for men or vaginal caps for women.
- STD Testing - Get tested in an STD testing center for an early diagnosis and better prognosis.
- Syphilis Screening for Pregnant Women - Testing pregnant women for syphilis early in the pregnancy gives a better chance of treating those who are infected and preventing congenital syphilis from happening.
Having a better understanding of syphilis is very important. 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 a bad idea. It is important that you take the right steps to cure yourself and not pass the virus to other people. Prevention is the key.
If pregnant women contract syphilis, they can pass the infection to their unborn child, which may show up in childbirth causing complications to the baby.
Treatment and Prevention
Prevention is better than cure. Be aware that an STD, if left unattended and untreated, could infect people in severe ways such as long-term complications.
A spirochete bacterium called Treponema pallidum is responsible for this infection. When you see early warning signs, get medical help immediately, even if they are just rashes, redness, small sores, or warts in the genital area. Touching them or coming in contact with the infected sores is enough to spread the infection to another person.
Although its symptoms may be initially painless, mild, or even unnoticeable, in the 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 of the infected person’s mouth to his/her partner.
Measures to prevent its transmission would include sexual abstinence, the use of condom, regular check-ups and screenings, antibiotics, and other prescribed medications. 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 always the best ways to go.