Syphilis: Testing Procedures and Treatment Options

Over the past two decades, cases on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been dramatically accelerating every year, and among the most famous of them is syphilis. This incident is not a result of insufficient preventive measures from health organizations. On the contrary, despite the awareness campaigns and development of testing and treatment methods, it’s positive that our problem seems to be more related to human discipline.


The syphilis epidemic is, by far, out of control, especially with the overwhelming reports of a high-risk population who do not practice safe sex habits.


Nevertheless, our battle with syphilis and STDs, in general, shall continue as we encourage individuals to know their options in going back to a healthy sexual lifestyle.


What Is Syphilis?

Syphilis is one of the most common STDs to spread all over the world quickly. Although technically, it is a sexually transmitted infection due to its tendency to remain asymptomatic in the early stages and even in the late stages. It is caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum.


This bacterial infection can affect certain areas of the body through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sexual intercourse with an infected person. It can be present in the genital areas, anus, and mouth. From these areas, the bacteria can be contracted by simply getting direct contact, which also includes touching and kissing.


Syphilis sores or chancres are the first visible symptoms of being infected with the bacteria. They’re painless, but they’re certainly contagious. However, they can also be easily treatable.


How To Diagnose Syphilis

There are four stages to the progression of syphilis: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary stage.

  1. The primary stage is when the chancres appear in the infected areas. They look like ulcers, and they don’t actually cause you pain. However, they are visibly detectable and can be positively diagnosed through rapid plasma reagin (RPR) or Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL).

    Rapid plasma reagin (RPR) is a syphilis blood test that identifies the presence of antibodies fighting the syphilis bacteria. Antibodies are natural proteins produced by the immune system to combat foreign substances, such as the bacteria causing syphilis infection.

    The venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL) test also looks for syphilis antibodies, which can be performed on blood or spinal fluid.
  2. The secondary stage may or may not manifest symptoms like rash, fever, lesions, tinnitus, sore throat, headaches, hearing loss, fatigue, ocular diseases, and central nervous system (CNS) diseases. It requires extensive diagnostic testing to make sure if the symptoms are positively related to syphilis. This may even occur after treating and resolving primary syphilis.
  3. The third stage is the latent stage, where an asymptomatic patient can still come out positive of syphilis through RPR or VDRL testing.
  4. The tertiary stage is quite a rare case. It happens beyond 12 months of having untreated syphilis in the system. The most common manifestation during this stage is meningovascular syphilis. It is a severe case in which the symptoms of a central nervous system vasculitis can lead to stroke.


When To Get Tested

To know when you need to get tested for syphilis, you must be aware of the risk factors that come with the infection.


You can become a high risk of syphilis infection when you become sexually active with unprotected sex habits, having multiple sexual partners, or getting involved with a partner with multiple sexual partners.


It’s a necessary safety precaution to get tested for syphilis whenever you have a new sexual partner. If you never had syphilis before, you might be exposing yourself to the infection by getting in contact with a sexual partner with unknown medical conditions.


When you start showing symptoms of the infection, it’s best to get tested right away. The sooner you detect the infections, the easier you can have it treated, and the faster you can get rid of it.


What are the risks of getting tested?

The syphilis test usually requires blood or spinal fluid sample. After the procedure, the patient might have slight bruising on the needle spot.


Lumbar punctures may cause slight pain and tenderness in the area. Light headaches may also be a short-term side effect on the procedure.


All of these symptoms will eventually go away within a few hours.


Are the results always accurate?

Tests that search for syphilis antibodies are accurate. When they come out negative, it means that there are no antibodies found. However, it may also mean that the antibodies haven’t kicked in just yet. It may take approximately a couple of weeks for the antibodies to begin showing up against the bacterial infection.


To be sure, you can take a second screening test and see if the results still won’t come out positive.


You have to abstain from sexual activities in between the first and second testing. Otherwise, you’ll have to start counting from day one again.


If your results come out positive on the first test, there’s almost a hundred percent probability that you’re infected with syphilis. By this time, you will need to seek immediate treatment for early-stage syphilis.


Treatment Options for Syphilis

All bacteria become weak against antibiotics. Syphilis is particularly highly sensitive to penicillin. All strains of Treponema pallidum appear to be non-resistant to penicillin, which makes it the foremost option to treat the infection.


Benzathine penicillin treatment is found applicable and effective for primary, secondary, and latent syphilis. The downside to benzathine penicillin is that some people are allergic to the medicine. An alternative treatment to the penicillin is doxycycline. For pregnant patients, they are specifically prescribed with parenteral penicillin G.


The doses for each drug vary in each stage, which your doctor can prescribe for you.


How To Prepare for Testing and Treatments

Dealing with syphilis and other kinds of sexually transmitted diseases require a strong support system. With the right treatment, your body can fight the infection. On the other hand, emotional battles require a deeper strength, and you will often need to be surrounded by the right people who can help you deal with the whole process with a positive disposition.


Most patients become hesitant in facing their condition because they tend to feel ashamed. The good thing is that there other ways to seek help, aside from the traditional hospital show-ups. You can request a virtual consultation in online clinics where you can take the first step in talking to a medical doctor about your situation.


If you’re looking for private and secure consultation on STD testing and treatment options, visit CallonDoc to schedule an online appointment.