Mayo Clinic Minute: Signs and symptoms of syphilis

Myths and Facts About Syphilis

Myth 1: Syphilis Is a Thing of the Past

Fact:“One of the big myths is that syphilis doesn’t exist anymore,” Bogart says. Many people think of syphilis as a disease that happened a long time ago, killed lots of people, but is no longer a worry.

“People will think, ‘Didn’t syphilis go away with the plague?’” says Damian P. Alagia III, MD, the medical director of women’s health for Quest Diagnostics. Like Bogart, he has encountered people who wrongly believe that syphilis is no longer an issue.

In fact, syphilis definitely qualifies as an active concern. “And it is something that you need to think about if you’re sexually active,” Bogart says. She points out that syphilis rates have been increasing in recent years, especially but not only in certain groups.

Year by year, syphilis rates in the United States have been trending upward since the year 2000. Syphilis rates are climbing for people with all sexual preferences, heterosexuals included. But the rates of all STDs, including syphilis, are especially high among men who have sex with men and among people of color. (1)

Elsewhere, in parts of Canada and Europe, syphilis rates have also risen in recent years.

The growing use of hookup apps such as Tinder and Grindr may be one reason for the rising rates of STDs including syphilis, some social scientists say.

Myth 2: Syphilis Makes You Go Insane

Fact:“Before there were [effective] treatments for syphilis, which are antibiotics, some very famous people had end-stage syphilis, and one of the symptoms of that is actually insanity,” says Bogart.

But today syphilis is completely curable, especially if it is diagnosed and treated early in the course of the illness. “Most people don’t progress to that end stage unless it’s untreated,” she says.

Myth 3: Syphilis Is Incurable

Fact:“That is just not true,” says Bogart. “Once antibiotics became available, syphilis became completely curable.”

It is true, though, that if a diagnosis comes late in the course of the illness, any organ damage already caused by syphilis may prove irreversible.

Myth 4: You Can Tell if You Have Syphilis

Fact:While you will have some symptoms soon after the infection occurs, you won’t necessarily notice them or recognize them as syphilis. At the location where the bacterium first entered your body, a sore called a chancre will crop up.

“You can miss that sore,” says Bogart. It may be visible if it’s on the penis, but it may not be visible if it’s tucked away inside your anus, vulva, or cervix.

Unlike the shallow, painful, weeping ulcers that are caused by herpes, a chancre that serves as a first sign of syphilis is painless.

“Some people could confuse that [chancre] for chafing, if they are exercising a lot or bicycling a lot or just having more friction during their sexual relations,” says Dr. Alagia. “They may think that it’s normal and that it just happened. That’s one reason we call syphilis ‘the great pretender.’"

“If you notice anything, any change on your skin or any sore on your penis or anus, get that checked out,” says Bogart. “It could be one of several sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis. If it is syphilis, the earlier that you catch it and the earlier that you treat it, the better off you will be.”

3 Myths From Earlier Times

Old Myth 1: Sex With a Virgin Cures Syphilis

This myth took hold in the 17th century. Horrifyingly, even today some people believe it. This wrongheaded idea has also shifted over time to include sex with a virgin as a cure for AIDS. As a result, news reports indicate that a growing number of men with AIDS have raped children in South Africa in hopes of a cure.

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Having sex with an uninfected person — sexually experienced or not — simply puts that person at risk of acquiring the infection.

Old Myth 2: Syphilis Can Only Enter a Flaccid Penis

A soft male member “drinks the infection in like a sponge,” wrote François Ranchin, a French physician in the 17th century. This idea ties in with another old myth that ejaculation during sex with a syphilitic woman leaves a man vulnerable to the infection.

In truth, once a man is having sex with an infected partner, he is vulnerable whether he ejaculates or not.

Old Myth 3: Syphilis Is an Inherited Disease

So called “folk wisdom” in Europe maintained that the “syphilitic taint” passed to the sperm or an egg during one sexual encounter. It would infect the person born of that sexual encounter, who could then pass it on to his or her children, and so on through many generations.

It’s now known that this is untrue, although a pregnant woman who has syphilis can pass it to her baby, often with disastrous results.

Video: Syphilis Myths & Facts | STDs

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Date: 06.12.2018, 14:41 / Views: 32252