Syphilis is one of the oldest and best-known sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), at least in the history books. According to reports, “Around 3000 BC the sexually transmitted syphilis emerged from endemic syphilis in South-Western Asia, due to lower temperatures of the post-glacial era and spread to Europe and the rest of the world. Initially it manifested as a mild disease, eventually aggravated and grew in virulence, suffering from several mutations, at the end of the 15th century.” (1)
Unfortunately, because of this ancient history, some people think of syphilis as they might think of the Black Death … as an old problem that does not affect people today. The statistics, however, prove this is very much untrue. In fact, the number of infected people is only growing, even in developed countries such as the United States.
“In 2017,” say the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “a total of 30,644 cases of P&S syphilis were reported in the United States, yielding a rate of 9.5 cases per 100,000 population. This rate represents a 10.5% increase compared with 2016 (8.6 cases per 100,000 population), and a 72.7% increase compared with 2013 (5.5 cases per 100,000 population).” (2)
These numbers mean one thing: That people are not taking testing seriously enough. If we all did our part to routinely check for syphilis, we could limit its spread … as well as remain aware of its signs and symptoms. Here’s all you need to know about this STD, so you can avoid it in your life today.
What Is Syphilis?
“Syphilis is caused by a spirochete (a spiral-shaped bacteria) called Treponema pallidum,” explains Healthline, explaining that you can get the bacteria from “direct contact with a syphilis sore (usually found on the vagina, anus, rectum, in the mouth, or on the lips); during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person; an infected mother can pass syphilis to her unborn child, which can result in serious complications or even death of the unborn child.” (3)
Syphilis is divided into stages (4):
- Primary Stage: In this phase, the only symptom is a small, round, hard bump where the disease entered your body. This usually clears up in 3-6 weeks, if it even manifests at all. Sometimes you may have multiple sores, but they’re usually painless, making them easy to ignore.
- Secondary Stage: This is when “real” symptoms start to appear. You may develop rashes all over the body, especially on the palms and soles of the feet. You may also have lesions on your mucus membranes. In some cases, swollen lymph nodes and fever can result, as well as fatigue.
- Latent Stage: In this stage, your body will stop manifesting symptoms. Syphilis will then remain in your body incognito for months or years.
- Tertiary Stage: Not everyone develops this stage, but if they do, it will happen 10-30 years after the initial infection. Organs can get seriously damaged in this stage, and many people die of it.
- Neurosyphilis and Ocular Syphilis: This stage can occur during any of the above. In this one, your nervous system is severely affected by the disease, causing blindness, trouble with coordination and movement, and other neurological disorders.
The primary and secondary stages are by far the most infectious. Sometimes, however, early latent syphilis sets in, which doesn’t give you much time to notice the symptoms. Or they may be too short in duration for you to make much of them, therefore leading the disease to take up residence for years unnoticed.
While syphilis is curable, you must get to it quickly. Otherwise, you a) risk spreading it to others and b) may cure it too late to prevent damage to the heart and brain.
How Can You Avoid Syphilis?
Because of the above consequences, and because syphilis can pass from a mother to her infant during delivery, it is critical that you do everything in your power to avoid getting this disease in the first place – and to avoid passing it on to your sexual partners, who can then pass it on to their partners, spreading the disease in exponential fashion.
Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a sore on the genitals or anus, so you should always wear protection when sleeping with a partner whose sexual history you do not know. Where possible, always get tested before you and your partner have sex for the first time, especially if you have not known them for a long period of time. Even then, however, you should still get tested due to syphilis’s long and asymptomatic latent stage.
Because condoms cannot protect contact from sores on the outside of the vagina, base of the penis or the anus, testing is the safest approach overall. Only then can you know that your partner is clean and that you will not pass anything on to them.
How Can You Test for Syphilis?
Many people still believe that the only way to test for sexually transmitted diseases is to wait in long lines at Planned Parenthood or book an appointment with their primary care provider. Because STDs carry so much stigma and shame, however, many people are likely to just avoid the task altogether, increasing the chances of syphilis progressing and spreading to others.
Good news: You can now test for this disease in the safety and comfort of your own home. With a home test kit from iDNA, you can assess your sexual wellness at any time, without having to go through your insurance company or alert your doctor. Only if you see a positive result do you need to make an appointment.
How Does the Test Work?
Home STD tests are quite simple to use. You order the iDNA kit online, then follow the instructions to collect the sample. After mailing it off, you register through the website and wait for your results, which you can track daily. If you have questions along the way, feel free to reach out to our in-house team, which is there to help you through the process and give you ongoing support over the years.
Best of all, the test is completely discreet. It comes in an unmarked box, we do not call attention to it on your credit card statement, and all contact between our company and you remains confidential for life. Are you ready to take control of your sexual health? Do so today by ordering your iDNA kit now!
(1) Brief History of Syphilis. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956094/
(2) Syphilis. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/syphilis.htm
(3) Secondary Syphilis. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/syphilis-secondary
(4) Syphilis - CDC Fact Sheet. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm