|Before you see a Doctor - Understanding your Body and its Common Ailments (Fountain Publishers, 1997, 112 p.)|
|Section IX - SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS (STI)|
Syphilis is a common STI. It can cause serious destruction and may invade and damage any organ in the body. Consequently, syphilis can give rise to a wide range of clinical pictures.
This disease is conventionally divided into three stages: The first stage (also called primary syphilis) has an incubation period of between ten days and three months. A single, painless sore or ulcer appears on the genital parts, especially over the vulva or first inch of the penis. There are at this stage small palpable nodes in the inguinal region. These lesions or sores are usually situated on the penis, vulva, cervix or rectum. These lesions disappear within three to eight weeks even without treatment, but in such cases the germs are teeming inside the body.
The second stage of syphilis (secondary syphilis) sets in about six weeks after the appearance of the primary lesion. These secondary syphilis lesions usually affect the skin. They may appear as a rash over the arms, back, abdomen or shoulders. They are usually symmetrically distributed over the body and are not itchy. Slightly bigger rashes may occur over the body, arms, legs, face or genitals. Again these do not itch.
The third stage of syphilis (tertiary syphilis) may involve the brain, kidney, eyes, bladder, the heart, etc. This stage usually appears 3 to 12 years after the primary infection. The patient may present with mental disturbance, inability to control urinary bladder so that he is leaking urine all the time, impotence, instability of gait, shaking of the hands or whole body, etc.
Treatment of syphilis is a simple job for the doctors when the patient presents early. There is very little doctors can do, sometimes nothing, about some of the complications seen in the late (third stage) syphilis. It is therefore most important that anyone who suspects himself of having contracted syphilis seeks the services of a doctor in the earliest stage of the disease.