What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a common and easily transmitted sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The pathogen can be found in the mucous membrane and in the blood. Most syphilis is transmitted through unprotected sex or oral sex. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of infections in Germany has been rising again for several years and reports nearly 8,000 cases in 2019.
Syphilis is mainly diagnosed in men who contract it during sex with another man. Transmission is also easily possible through shared syringes when using drugs. If detected early and treated with antibiotics, the chances of a cure are good. If left untreated, syphilias can cause serious health problems.
Syphilis: signs of venereal disease
Syphilis takes place in several stages and therefore can have different signs. Doctors differentiate early and late syphilis. The first phase, in turn, will be primary stage and secondary stage Split. In some cases, syphilis may have no symptoms, making diagnosis difficult.
In the first stage, there are no symptoms immediately after infection. After about 14 to 24 days appear in the primary stage nodules at body sitewhere the pathogen entered. In men, for example, the glans or the furrow of the penis can be affected. Women may have lumps on the labia, vaginal vestibule, cervix, or clitoris. However, depending on the sexual practice, other areas can also be affected – for example the tongue, nose, lips, oral cavity, pharynx, anus or rectum. The nodules may become one after a week or two painless ulcer develop.
Moreover, after two to three months flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and joint pain in the secondary stage. Changes in the skin and mucous membranes, which may appear as scaly or purulent blisters, are particularly characteristic. The affected mucous membranes are reddened or gray-white.
In the third phase, after years, ulcers can form all over the body. Organs and the nervous system can be damaged, threatening deafness, blindness and impaired cognitive performance. However, due to good treatment options, this case is very rare.
Syphilis is usually treated with an antibiotic, usually penicillin. The drug is either injected into the muscle or, in severe cases, given by infusion into the vein. In the case of a penicillin allergy, other active ingredients such as doxycycline or erythromycin can be considered.
If the disease is treated early and in the first two stages, the therapy lasts about two to three weeks. In later phases, treatment usually takes longer.
Condoms and femidoms help provide the best possible protection against infection. However, these do not offer 100% protection against infections. If you suspect you have syphilis, you should see a doctor. A blood test can be used to determine if you have been infected. If you are diagnosed with syphilis, the infection must be reported to the RKI as the spread is monitored in Germany.