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A tribute to Aidsline
Syphilis is relatively uncommon in Australia. It is still widespread in many parts of the world. Syphilis is a bacterial infection (Treponema pallidum) and so can be treated by antibiotics. It is therefore important that it is diagnosed early. Untreated syphilis can remain in the body for many years and cause serious illness in its later stages.
People often have no symptoms. Syphilis usually has three stages:
* Primary Syphilis: 0-3 weeks. A painless sore usually on the genital area.
* Secondary Syphilis: 0-2 months. Symptoms include swollen glands and a rash (especially on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands).
* Tertiary Syphilis: may occur many years later. Untreated syphilis may have no symptoms for many years but may eventually cause problems in the brain, heart or skin.
Syphilis is transmitted by unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be passed on from an infected mother to her unborn child. The first sign of infection is a sore or chancre about 10 days to three months from infection. The infection can be diagnosed by a blood test.
Use condoms for all vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Penicillin infections are given in the early phases. Untreated syphilis may cause serious illness after many years of infection. Complex medical treatments may then be required.
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