Infections that can be passed through sexual contact and activities are referred to as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than one million people get an STI every day. If left untreated, STIs can cause serious health problems, including cancers, liver disease, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), conception/pregnancy challenges and infertility. Some examples of these STIs include Chlamydia, HIV, Gonorrhea, Herpes, Trichomoniasis and Syphilis.
Today’s focus is on Syphilis and how it can affect fertility.
WHAT IS SYPHILIS?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that was once a major public health threat. It is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection that can be spread through sexual activities (including oral and anal sex) with an infected person without the use of a condom or latex barrier. The infected person often does not know that they have the disease and passes it on to their sexual partner.
CAUSES OF SYPHILIS
Syphilis is caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. It is spread through contact with an infected person’s sore during sexual activity. The bacteria enter the body through minor cuts in the skin or mucous membranes. Less commonly, syphilis may spread through direct contact with an active lesion, such as during kissing.
Syphilis can’t be spread by using the same toilet, bathtub, clothing or eating utensils, or from doorknobs, swimming pools or hot tubs. Once cured, syphilis does not return on its own. However, one can become reinfected if contact is made with syphilis sore. Some of the consequences of syphilis on fertility are the possibility of transmission from mother to baby which may cause miscarriages and congenital disease, male and female infertility, and the increase of HIV infection risk.
STAGES AND SYMPTOMS OF SYPHILIS
Primary syphilis: The first symptom of syphilis is appearance of a painless sore (chancre). The sore appears at the point of entrance of the bacteria into the body. An infected person could have one to several chancre sores which usually develops about three weeks after exposure. Many people who have syphilis may not notice the chancre because it’s usually painless and hidden. The chancre will heal on its own within three to six weeks.
Secondary syphilis: Few weeks after the sore has healed, one may start to experience a rash that begins on the trunk which will eventually cover the entire body including the palms and the soles of feet. This rash is usually not itchy and may be accompanied by wartlike sores in your mouth or genital area. Some people also experience hair loss, muscle aches, a fever, a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. These signs and symptoms may disappear within a few weeks or repeatedly come and go for as long as a year.
Latent syphilis: If left untreated, the disease moves from the secondary stage to the hidden (latent) stage, when it becomes asymptomatic. The latent stage can last for years. Signs and symptoms may never return, or the disease may progress to the tertiary stage.
Tertiary syphilis: Complications from untreated syphilis infection develops when syphilis is left untreated. These complications are known as tertiary syphilis. In this stage, the disease may damage the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints. These problems may occur many years after the original, untreated infection.
Neurosyphilis: At any stage, syphilis can spread and cause damage to the brain, nervous system and also, the eyes.
COMPLICATIONS OF SYPHILIS
Without treatment, syphilis can lead to damage throughout the body. Syphilis also increases the risk of HIV infection and can cause problems during pregnancy. Treatment can help prevent future damage but cannot repair or reverse damage that has already occurred.
Small bumps or tumors: In the late stage of syphilis, bumps (gummas) can develop on the skin, bones, liver or any other organ. Gummas usually disappear after treatment with antibiotics.
Neurological problems: Syphilis can cause a number of problems with the nervous system, including: Headache, Stroke, Meningitis, Hearing loss, Visual problems (blindness), Dementia, Loss of pain and temperature sensations, Sexual dysfunction in men and Bladder incontinence.
Cardiovascular problems: These may include bulging and swelling of the aorta (the body’s major artery) and of other blood vessels. Syphilis may also damage heart valves.
HIV infection: Adults with sexually transmitted syphilis or other genital ulcers have an increased risk of contracting HIV. A syphilis sore can bleed easily, providing an easy way for HIV to enter the bloodstream during sexual activity.
Pregnancy and childbirth complications: Syphilis may be passed to an unborn baby. Congenital syphilis is extremely dangerous to a newborn baby, with a significant chance of fatality when untreated. It greatly increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or death of the newborn within a few days after birth. Getting tested for syphilis before getting pregnant or early in the first trimester is extremely important as the symptoms are not always obvious …………………………………………..TO BE CONTINUED