Syphilis used to be a sexually transmitted disease that got quite a bit of attention for its highly contagious and serious effects on the body. With the advent of penicillin and education about the disease, syphilis rates decreased significantly. Despite that success, however, there is now a resurgence of the disease, and the Mille Lacs area is no stranger to it. The cause for the rise in cases is due to many factors, such as 21st century dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, as well as the need for fast money. The resurgence of syphilis, thought to have been mostly eradicated in the U.S., is now posing a major threat to public health. Minnesota has seen double-digit increases in cases of syphilis and gonorrhea, with a record high in 2016.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), and there are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage. You can get syphilis by direct contact with syphilis sore during sex. Syphilis can also be spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.
The signs and symptoms with primary and secondary syphilis can be mild and even go unnoticed. Syphilis can present in its stages as sores, rashes, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. It can eventually affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body, causing blindness, arthritis, and brain damage.
Any person who is sexually active is at risk for getting syphilis, as sexual contact spreads the disease.
The only way to avoid getting this STD, if you are sexually active, is to:
- Be in a monogamous relationship with another person who has been tested for and does not have the STD.
- Use latex condoms the right way but remember that many kinds of sexual contact can spread the disease, including the mouth.
If you are pregnant and have syphilis, you can give the infection to your unborn baby. Having syphilis can lead to having a low birth weight baby, delivery of your baby too early, or having a stillborn baby. You should be tested for syphilis at least once during your pregnancy and receive immediate treatment if you test positive. A baby who is born to a mother with syphilis may develop serious problems within a few weeks. Untreated babies can have health problems such as cataracts, deafness, seizures, and can die.
Syphilis can be treated but the best prevention is practicing safe sex.