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Syphilis

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Body art practitioners need to be aware of diseases and how to prevent spreading diseases that can be present on certain areas of the skin. The Centers for Disease Control provides the following information on Syphilis: Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (otherwise known as an STD) that can have very serious complications when left untreated, but it is simple to cure with the right treatment. When a pregnant woman has syphilis, the infection can be transmitted to her unborn baby. Depending on how long a pregnant woman has been infected, she may have a high risk of having a stillbirth or giving birth to a baby who dies shortly after birth. Untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in infant death in up to 40 percent of most cases. A person can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore. The most common mode of transmission occurs from direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. The average time between acquisition of syphilis and the start of the first symptom is 21 days, but can range from 10 to 90 days. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with different signs and symptoms associated with each stage. A person with primary syphilis generally has a sore or sores at the original site of infection. These sores usually occur on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. These sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Sores usually lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heal regardless of whether or not the person receives treatment. Even after the sore goes away, treatment is required. This will stop the infection from moving to the secondary stage. Syphilis can also invade the nervous system at any stage of infection and cause neuromuscular and ocular problems, such as paralysis and even blindness. Symptoms of secondary syphilis include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. This stage usually starts with a rash on one or more areas of the body. The rash can show up when a primary sore is healing or several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash can look like rough, red, or reddish brown spots on the palms of the hands and/or the bottoms of the feet. The rash usually won’t itch and it is sometimes so faint that you won’t notice it. The signs and symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis can be mild, and they might not be noticed. Without the right treatment, infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis. The latent stage of a syphilis infection is a period of time when there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. If you do not receive treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in the body for years without signs or symptoms. Tertiary syphilis is associated with the severe medical problems that are related to it. It can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. Tertiary syphilis is very serious and occurs 10–30 years after an infection began. In tertiary syphilis, the disease damages the internal organs and can result in death. A doctor can usually diagnose tertiary syphilis with the help of multiple tests. Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from a health care provider. However, treatment might not undo any damage that the infection has already done.

In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the syphilis virus, including how people get syphilis, the four stages of syphilis, and the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. The disease starts as a painless sore – typically on your genitals, rectum, or mouth – and spreads from person to person via skin or mucous membrane contact with these sores

Body art practitioners need to make sure that they are aware of diseases and how to prevent spreading them, especially those that can be present on certain areas of the skin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided the following information on syphilis:

  1. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, also known as an STD.
  2. Syphilis can have very serious complications when it is not treated.
  3. Syphilis is simple to cure with the proper treatment.

Warning: when a pregnant woman has syphilis, the infection can be transmitted to her unborn baby depending on how long the woman has been infected. There exists a high risk of stillbirth or giving birth to a baby who dies shortly thereafter. When left untreated, syphilis in pregnant women results in infant death up to 40 percent of the time.

Pro Tip #1: A person usually gets syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore. The most common mode of transmission is through contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Syphilis sores can often be found on and/or around the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, on the lips, and around the mouth. The average time between getting the syphilis virus and the start of the first symptom is usually around 21 days, however this period can range from 10 to 90 days.

The Four Stages of Syphilis

Syphilis has been divided into four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. To complicate matters, each stage of syphilis has its own set of signs and symptoms associated with it.

Primary Syphilis Stage

A person in the primary stage of syphilis generally has one or more sores at or around the original site of the infection. As already mentioned, these sites usually include around the genitals, around the anus, inside the rectum, or in or around the mouth.

Syphilis sores are usually, but not always, firm, round, and painless. These sores typically last between three and six weeks and will heal regardless of whether or not the person infected receives treatment.

Pro Tip #2: Even after a syphilis sore goes away, treatment is still required. If left untreated, there is nothing stopping the infection from moving to stage two, secondary syphilis.

Syphilis can also invade the nervous system during any stage of infection. This can cause neuromuscular and ocular complications such as paralysis and blindness.

Secondary Syphilis Stage

Symptoms of secondary syphilis include, but are not limited to:

  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever

The symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis can be mild or maybe not even noticeable at all. However, if it is left untreated, the syphilis infection will then move to the latent stage and possibly even the tertiary stage.

The secondary stage of syphilis usually begins with a rash on one or more areas of the body. This rash can show up along with primary sores, while the sores are healing, or even several weeks after the sores have healed.

A secondary syphilis rash usually looks like rough, red, or reddish-brown spots on the penis, the hands, and/or the bottom of the feet. A syphilis rash usually isn't itchy and sometimes it can be so faint that the person infected won't even notice.

Latent Syphilis Stage

The latent stage of the syphilis infection does not come with any visible signs or symptoms of the disease. However, if the person infected does not receive treatment, the infection can continue to harbor the syphilis virus in the body for many more years with no signs or symptoms.

Tertiary Syphilis Stage

The tertiary stage of the syphilis infection is often associated with severe medical problems that are directly related to it. These more serious problems can affect the heart, the brain, or other vital organs in the body.

Tertiary syphilis is extremely serious and occurs somewhere between 10 and 30 years after the person was first infected. This stage of the disease can do great damage to internal organs and even result in death.

Most physicians will be able to diagnose a syphilis infection with the help of multiple tests. With the right kind of antibiotic from a health care provider, syphilis can be cured. However, it's important to point out that treatment will probably not undo any of the damage that the syphilis virus has already caused.