Syphilis is an ancient disease. Famous people throughout history have suffered from the disease, such as Al Capone, Paul Gaugin, Edouard Manet, Oscar Wilde and a number of other artists and political figures. It has struck people from the middle ages on, and perhaps even earlier – though medical records make that a little harder to ascertain.
“Up until the early 20th century it was believed that syphilis had been brought from America and the New World to the Old World by Christopher Columbus in 1493,” explains one medical journal. “In 1934 a new hypothesis was put forward, that syphilis had previously existed in the Old World before Columbus. I In the 1980’s palaeopathological studies found possible evidence that supported this hypothesis and that syphilis was an old treponeal disease which in the late 15th century had suddenly evolved to become different and more virulent.” (1)
Whatever the case, it’s been around for a while. This distinguishes it from more recently discovered diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. Similar to them, syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that passes exclusively through sexual activity. Because of this, anyone who engages in sex with partners – protected or otherwise – must be aware of the symptoms of syphilis, as well as what to do about it.
Hint: testing is the most effective way to protect yourself and your partners from this disease. Before we discuss that, though, let’s take a look at what this disease is, what causes it and who is at risk.
What Is Syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by a type of bacteria known as Treponema pallidum. It is a member of four different and closely related diseases. However, “Of the aforementioned bacteria, syphilis is the sole sexually transmitted treponemal disease, as the other conditions are transmitted via direct contact with an infected individual.” (2) The other bacteria are less prevalent, though.
“It is spread through sexual contact with sores, known as chancres,” explains Medical News Today. “Shared contact with surfaces like doorknobs or tables will not spread the infection. Early treatment with penicillin can cure it.” (3)
That’s the good news about the disease: It cannot spread except through unprotected sexual contact. However, the bad news is, it’s not possible to remain safe from this disease forever: “Syphilis will not come back after treatment, but it can recur with further exposure to the bacteria. Having syphilis once does not prevent a person from contracting it again.” Moreover, if you miss syphilis in its early stages, it can come back with a vengeance years later: “The infection can lie dormant for up to 30 years before returning as tertiary syphilis.” (4)
What Are the Stages of Syphilis?
Syphilis manifests in progressive stages. The first two stages – primary and secondary – are when the disease is most virulent. Afterwards, syphilis then enters a long latent stage, in which there are no symptoms. Mostly it lies dormant in this stage, although it can still be transmissible in the early parts of the phase. Decades later, it enters the tertiary stage, in which it can be life-threatening. Here’s a more specific look at the stages (5):
- Primary syphilis: This stage develops shortly after the individual contracts the disease. The main symptom is one or several firm, round and painless bumps. These usually appear about 3 weeks following exposure (oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected individual), and will disappear on their own without treatment, usually in 3-6 weeks. They may not even manifest in the first place.
- Secondary syphilis: In this stage, there are a number of other possible symptoms. That includes a rash on the trunk that can spread to the whole body; flu-like symptoms and fever; muscle aches; wart-like sores on the genitals; sore throat and headaches; hair loss; swollen lymph nodes and weight loss. These symptoms may manifest once, several times over a longer period of time, or not at all.
- Latent syphilis: Once the body passes out of the secondary stage, it will enter a long latent stage. This phase can last years or decades, during which the body harbors the pathogen but does not manifest symptoms of any kind.
- Tertiary syphilis: This stage can have severe consequences, including damage to organs and blood vessels; serious joint trouble; soft tissue swellings and other potentially fatal symptoms.
There is a treatment for syphilis, which is especially effective if caught early. For this reason, it’s critical to test if there is any chance you might have contracted an STD.
What Is the Best Way to Test for Syphilis?
There are a number of good ways to test for syphilis. The first is to visit a doctor or clinic. There, a physician or nurse will administer a test and send it to a lab, then contact you with the results. While this is a good option to have, it still requires time, effort and money to make an appointment and show up at the appointed time. Plus, it’s not very private, which leads many people to avoid getting tested.
According to the American Sexual Health Association, in fact, “Even though young people account for half of new STI cases, a recent survey showed only about 12% were tested for STIs in the last year.” (6) If you are a part of that statistic, we have good news for you: there’s now a better way to test.
Should You Test at Home?
The answer to the question of whether or not to test at home is an unequivocal yes. Today’s Syphilis at home test kits from iDNA are simple to use, giving you the flexibility to test whenever you need, with total privacy and discretion. Our easy online portal system allows you to register, then wait for your test results. Our team is happy to help or answer any questions you have at any step of the way, so you have just as much support as you would if you were to visit your own healthcare provider.
Best of all, you can keep testing as many times as you need until you settle into a monogamous relationship, you both get tested, and you never need to do so again. Ready to create that safe, STD-free future? Order your iDNA At Home STD Test Kit today!
- (1) Syphilis – Its Early History and Treatment Until Penicillin and the Debate on Its Origins. (ND). Retrieved from https://jmvh.org/article/syphilis-its-early-history-and-treatment-until-penicillin-and-the-debate-on-its-origins/
- (2) Brief History of Syphilis. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956094/
- (3) Syphilis: What You Need to Know. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186656.php
- (4) Syphilis: What You Need to Know. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186656.php
- (5) Syphilis: What You Need to Know. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186656.php
- (6) Statistics. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/statistics/