Syphilis | Testing for silent infections

27 October, 2021

“Syphilis has increased by 199% in the UK over the last 10 years with a rise from 2,646 new diagnosis in 2010, to 7,900 in 2019,” (Public Health England).

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Many cases of syphilis show limited to no symptoms until it is too late. If syphilis is given the opportunity to survive without antibiotic input for a long period of time, there can be serious consequences to the carrier. “Syphilis symptoms are often mild and difficult to recognise, and you may pass the infection on without knowing you have it,” (NHS). There are three main stages to syphilis symptoms. If the previous round of symptoms isn’t treated, or goes unnoticed, the carrier continues onto the next.

Primary syphilis

This is the first stage of syphilis symptoms. They are often mild and painless, therefore they can easily go undetected. Symptoms include:

  • A small painless sore or ulcer called a chancre. This can be found around the genitals, mouth or fingers on the body, (CDC).

Primary symptoms usually pass within 2-8 weeks, but if the infection isn’t treated, or goes unnoticed, the syphilis continues onto the next stage.

Secondary Syphilis

This stage of symptoms will last the carrier 2-3 weeks and appear when the carrier has had the syphilis infection for 2 years. These include:

  • A red rash that can appear anywhere on the body, but usually appears on the hands and / or feet
  • Small skin growths
  • White patches in the mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen glands, (University of Michigan Health).

Similarly to the primary symptoms, these may not cause concern for certain individuals, or many not show up at all. If this is the case, it is unlikely they will attend a medical professional meaning the infection will continue to grow to the final stage.

Tertiary syphilis

The final stage of syphilis symptoms contain potentially life threatening problems such as:

  • Meningitis
  • Strokes
  • Dementia symptoms
  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Numbness
  • Vision problems or blindness
  • Heart problems, (Mayo Clinic).

This silent infection, like many others, has serious health implications if left untreated. Despite the recent drop in STI/STD figures in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers are still worryingly high. This shows the importance of regular STI testing for high risk individuals, even if little to no symptoms become apparent. Fortress Diagnostics offer a wide range of STI/STD testing products including products syphilis testing.

Click here to view the Fortress Diagnostics full range of syphilis testing >> Fortress Diagnostics Syphilis Tests

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