Syphilis is a contagious, sexually-transmitted disease. It affects the genitals, skin and central nervous system. It causes widespread tissue destruction. Symptoms resemble those of many other diseases. There are two major types. Congenital syphilis affects newborns (0 to 2 weeks). These infants are born to mothers with syphilis. The other major form, and the most common, is that transmitted through sexual contact. It can affect both sexes at can occur at all ages.
Causes of Syphilis
Syphilis is due to the spirochete infection, Treponema pallidum. The congenital form is transmitted to the fetus through the bloodstream, and the contagious form is spread by sexual contact with someone who has syphilis in the first or second stages. The open lesions, ulcers or chancres, are particularly contagious.
Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis
Syphilis has many stages. The early forms of the disease produce painless sores or ulcers that are seen on the genitals, the rectum, the mouth or the lips. These are referred to as chancres. Lumps in the neck, armpit or groin may appear. These lesions develop somewhere between 1 and 6 weeks following exposure. They usually disappear by themselves. The secondary stage of syphilis develops anywhere from 1 week to 6 months following primary syphilis, if no treatment is given. A rash develops, especially on the palms and soles of the feet. Sores or ulcers may develop in the mouth. Fever is usually present. Headache, joint pain and bone pain may occur. Painless lumps in the neck, armpit or groin develop. The late stages of syphilis may occur months or years later. This stage of the disease can affect most organs, especially the heart, the brain and the bones. The third stage can lead to mental deterioration, sexual impotence, loss of balance, loss feeing or shooting pains in the legs, unstable gait and heart disease.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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