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Syphilis - An Old Though Thoroughly Modern Disease

Apr 7, 2008
You may know that syphilis is a disease, which can be transmitted by sexual contact in almost all cases. It is an infectious disease, contagious, whose evolution is chronic, intermittent. It is transmitted through genital contact, very rarely via other means and it can affect any tissue or organ.

The stage where the spirochete starts to invade the body is called primary syphilis. It starts where the infectious lesion had a direct contact, most likely in the penis, the labia and the uterine cervix. It can be observed from the medical history that first contact with an infected person would have been a week to 2 months ago. The characteristic lesion is typified by a chancre, the point of first exposure.

It will take an average of 21 days for the spirochete to develop, depending on different factors. The chancre starts to erode slightly and quickly develops into a painless surface wound. Inflammation of regional ganglions will be noticed though it will be isolated, mobile, and also painless.

Secondary syphilis represents the dissemination period; it emerges at 7 - 10 weeks after the infecting contact and at 2 - 3 weeks since the occurrence of the primary syphilis sign, in the same time with microbes' migration from ganglions where their number is big into circulation. A second incubation follows until the emergence of the first skin lesions, which occur after about 45 days since the first sign occurrence and 60 - 70 days since the infecting contact.

The infection will sometimes cause fever. Any part of the body tissue can be affected and injured. In general, the lesions will develop in the teguments and mucous membranes. The lesions will appear like rashes caused by a viral disease, however lesions will be pustule-like elements.

Recurrent syphilis occurs after insufficient or incorrect treatment. In this case, secondary syphilis can emerge again (in 3 to 9 months after treatment). Relapses can be only serologic, without any clinical manifestations. If clinical manifestations still occur, they can be skin and mucous membranes lesions, neurological symptoms, sore eyes, bones affections or visceral ones.

Latent syphilis represents a calm stage from clinical point of view, between secondary lesions resorption and tertiary symptoms emergence.

During this stage, the serologic reaction is positive, the LCR exam is negative; the radiological and clinical exam and the ECG highlight possible cardiovascular lesions.

Tertiary syphilis or the third stage can occur even after years of latency. Late lesions represent probably an allergic reaction of tissues at Treponema Pallidum and it can affect tissues like skin and mucous membranes. In this case, on the skin can occur tubercles formations, tubercles and ulcerate as well as nodules. On the other hand, mucous membranes can present tubercles and ulcerate lesions.

A pregnant woman can infect the fetus while inside the uterus. Thus the baby is born with congenital syphilis. The father cannot transmit it to the fetus if the mother is healthy.

When the child is born or during the first two years of its life, blister like symptoms are produced which sometimes turn into wounds. This is the precocious congenital syphilis.

Late congenital syphilis sets off after two years from birth and the lesions that will appear denote that the disease is already in its third stage.
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