Overview of Syphilis
Syphilis is a life-threatening, sexually transmitted infectious disease caused by bacterium Treponema pallidum. This spirochete bacterium can spread throughout the body and affect all body systems if not treated properly. Syphilis progresses in three stages - primary, secondary and tertiary. It starts with skin lesions which lead to multiple sores on hand, mouth and vagina. In later stages, disease can spread to heart, brain and muscles; the infection of brain and blood vessels is known as meningovascular syphilis. It causes inflammation of arterial walls, cranial nerves and meninges. Meningovascular syphilis appears a few years after contracting syphilis and causes stroke (in young adults) and heart related problems such as heart attack, blood clot formation and obstruction of blood flow.
Causes and Risk Factors of Syphilis
Syphilis is generally transmitted through sexual contact; it can also be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy (congenital). Persons who have syphilis carriers as sex-partners or who have multiple sex partners are at high risk of contracting syphilis. Person practicing unsafe sex (not using condoms) or having same-sex partners are also at high risk of getting syphilis. The incidence of getting syphilis is high in males, according to a report 72% of cases in 2011 are due to man-man sex.
Patients suffering from AIDS are also highly susceptible to get syphilis which quickly progresses to meningovascular syphilis. Persons getting transfusion of syphilis contaminated blood or blood products are also at high risk.
Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis
The primary signs of syphilis are rashes on different parts of body, moist warts in the groin, white patches inside mouth, swollen lymph nodes, and fever and weigh loss. The Signs and Symptoms of meningovascular syphilis involve stroke, vomiting and nausea, headache, irritability and lack of sleep. Patients also exhibit poor coordination, decreased memory, hyporeflexia, ataxia, visual impairment, loss of bladder control, emotional instability and other psychological abnormalities. Seizures and palsies, optic atrophy and cardiovascular disorders may also be observed.