WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SYPHILIS?
Types of syphilis
The symptoms of syphilis vary according to the diffent phase of this deasese. We can distinguish the following types of syphilis according to the stage of its development:
- Primary Syphilis: This is the one corresponding to the first phase of the disease. In 30% of cases it does not present any symptoms. In the remaining 70%, the main symptom is the appearance of what is called the chancre. It is a painless lesion, rounded or oval and usually with prominent ends. If we touch it, it usually has a hard consistency and it is painless. It can measure little more than 1 cm in diameter, but sometimes it can reach 3 cm.
Generally, men usually develop it in the penis, on the prepuce or foreskin, but it may also occur in the testicles or any part of the penis. In women, it usually occurs within the vulva or vagina. Both, men and women, may present it on any mucous membrane around the anus, or rectum, mouth and even a hand or a finger.
Cankers usually occur singly, but there are times when there is more than one. Sometimes there is not even anyone, and the first phase of this disease goes undetected. It is very common, in the case of women, the chancre to appear on the inside of the labia of the vagina so the woman may not be aware of its existence.
The healing of sores without treatment is carried out about 20 or 80 days, leaving a small signal at the beginning that disappears completely with time.
In addition to the blight or canker, another symptom of primary syphilis is the inflammation of the lymph nodes near the chancre that are more palpable to the touch but not painful. This inflammation occurs in 70% of those infected.
- Secondary syphilis: It corresponds to the second stage of the disease. This occurs when the syphilis is not properly cured. 30% of people suffering from untreated syphilis develop secondary syphilis. It usually occurs normally within 40 days after the chancre has occurred, even when this is not completely healed. However, it can start more than a year later. It usually lasts between 15 and 50 days. It is the most infectious stage of syphilis.
The main symptom of this stage is the appearance of a skin rash (Syphilitic roseola) with some symptoms characterized by a series of round spots of pink color in the skin that appear mainly on the back, chest, abdomen, and frequently in palms or soles of the feet. Skin rush usually disappears after two weeks but it may last up to one year or reappear later. In most cases, it does not leave any scars on the skin as these gradually disappear.
Syphilitic warts are a type of brown eruptions that appear in the mouth, pharynx, glands or around the anus. Syphilitic papules may also occur, a kind of grain or brownish-gray color that it is usually shown in the soles of the feet or palms. Both the warts and the bumps usually disappear without scarring.
In addition to these lesions in the mucous membranes and skin, the disease can present a series of negative symptoms in the body that indicate the presence of an infection: swollen lymph nodes, liver inflammation, nephritis, fever, pharyngitis, pain in the joints, loss of appetite, general feeling of malaise, hair loss, headache, etc
- Latency phase: The third stage of syphilis, called the lag phase is a period in which the disease exists with the possibility for prompt return of the symptoms of the secondary phase or no symptoms of the disease appear. This phase has two subphases: the first is called the early lag phase and occurs in a quarter of patients who have been cured in the secondary phase. It appears after four years of initial infection. During this period, the patients with or without symptoms, have the potential to infect other healthy people. Infected mothers can also pass it to the fetus.
The second sub-phase of latency is called phase of delayed latency (late lag phase) and it appears between 4 and 8 years after the original contagion. During this period the symptoms disappear but the disease continues to evolve. During this subphase mothers can infect the fetus. Late latency may resolve spontaneously or continue moving towards the third stage. Between half and two thirds of people infected with syphilis in late lag phase treated with antibiotics did not heal spontaneously.
- Tertiary Syphilis: It is the one that corresponds to patients with untreated syphilis who have not passed the second phase. 30 to 50% of patients not treated with antibiotics develop this stage, called tertiary syphilis or late syphilis. It is a stage in which there is very serious damage to the body, although the patients of this phase can not infect healthy people.
The damages produced by the tertiary syphilis result from the accumulation of spirochetes in the blood vessels of different organs of the body as an autoimmune reaction that these organs develop from this type of bacteria. This damage is manifested as inflammation or destruction of the inner walls of blood vessels. Depending on where the damage occurs, there are the following types of injuries:
- Syphilitic gumma: They're kind of soft benign painless tumors that can appear in any body organ, but usually affect the skin, mucous membranes, bones and liver. They usually appear in the skin of the face, back, arms or scalp. Other times they appear in the mucosa of the palate of the mouth, pharynx, tongue or inside the nose. When they appear on the bones, they can lead to deformities and, when they appear in the liver, they often cause liver failure. Syphilitic gumma are not usually healed without treatment and are particularly destructive when they develop in the brain.
- Cardiovascular syphilis: When the lesions occur in any part of the arteries or heart. Among the most serious consequences that can produce such damage are: heart failure, heart attacks, scarring of the valves of the aorta or abnormal widening of the aorta (aneurysm), etc. Cardiovascular syphilis affects about 10 or 15% of tertiary syphilis patients.
- Neurosyphilis: When the lesions occur in the blood vessels in nerve tissue. It can appear between 10 and 20 years after infection, affecting 10% of people with tertiary syphilis. It represents the most serious stage of syphilis. There are four types or forms of manifestations of neurosyphilis:
- Asymptomatic neurosyphilis: when it does not affect the central nervous system.
- Meningovascular neurosyphilis: Inflammation of the meninges and blood vessels in the brain. It produces irritability, depression, vision problems, headache and in severe cases, lack of muscle strength in arms.
- Tabes dorsalis: Produced by the loss of myelin, which causes a loss of capacity for transmission of nerve impulses. Among the most characteristic symptoms are: movement problems due to the lack of balance and loss of muscle reflexes and muscle atrophy (locomotor ataxia), pain in the abdomen, vomiting, occasional pain in the throat, rectum or bladder.
- General paresis: Produced by the damage to the cerebral cortex. This leads to strong changes in behavior, memory loss, lack of interest, difficulty concentrating. It can produce large changes in personality, irritability, mental confusion, depression, psychosis, dementia.
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