See your doctor at once if you have a sore on the genital or rectal area, any painless sore in the mouth, or any unusual rashes. Treatment is easiest and most effective if syphilis is diagnosed in its early stages. If syphilis is left untreated, serious complications can develop, including signs of heart failure and neurological manifestations.
See your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of late syphilis. The symptoms of late syphilis are quite varied, and may reflect manifestations of many other diseases. Symptoms of heart disease such as shortness of breath or chest pain; neurological disturbance such as changes in vision, hearing, personality, or dizziness; or unusual rashes, pains, or recurring fevers all deserve prompt medical attention.
Practice safe-sex precautions—particularly condom use—to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If you are a male, use a condom during sexual activity. If you are a female, insist that any male partners use a condom. Females may also consider using a vaginal shield (also known as a female condom). Do not have intimate relations with someone who has genital sores until the problem has been diagnosed and successfully treated.
If you had sexual relations with a partner who was diagnosed with syphilis, you must be tested, even if you have not noticed genital sores or other symptoms. Similarly, if you have been diagnosed with syphilis, you must contact prior sexual partners who may have been exposed.
Sexually active individuals should periodically undergo a screening test on their blood for syphilis; particularly during pregnancy.
Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.
Patients with HIV infection should be tested for syphilis. Likewise, anyone with syphilis should be tested for HIV. The risk factors for HIV infections and syphilis overlap, and it is believed that the open sores of a syphilis infection makes HIV transmission more likely. All patients with either disease should be tested for the other.
Syphilis is curable in its early stages, and its progress can be restrained in the later stages. Patients with primary, secondary, or early latent stages of syphilis can usually be completely cured with a single dose of penicillin. People in later stages may already have permanent damage, but more intensive penicillin treatment may prevent progression of the disease.
If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious complications many years after infection.
Damage to the nervous system, heart, and other organs can develop if syphilis remains untreated for several years. In the most severe cases, syphilis can eventually progress to paralysis, changes in mental function, and death.
All patients treated for syphilis should be examined by a doctor, and have their blood retested both six months and one year after the original infection. It is critical for you to return for follow-up tests to see if syphilis has been eradicated. If not treated properly, the disease can progress to neurosyphilis, which is very difficult to treat.
The following special groups need more frequent or longer follow-up:
- People with HIV infection or other immune deficiency syndrome.
- Those with any neurological manifestations, and those with tertiary syphilis or late latent syphilis
- People who were treated with medications other than penicillin due to proven penicillin allergy
People who have had syphilis or any other sexually transmitted disease should re-evaluate their lifestyle and sexual practices to avoid further infections. People who have had syphilis presumably engage in behavior that puts them at risk for contracting other sexually transmitted diseases.
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