Long Term Effects from Syphilis

Syphilis Treatment »

The treatment of syphilis using antibiotics may end the current infection, but many people still have concerns about the long term health implications that the disease may have caused.

Unfortunately if you have a current syphilis infection, it is believed that you are three to five times more likely when exposed to HIV to catch the virus. This is due to syphilis sores having a tendency to bleed, thereby increasing the risk of HIV getting into the body via blood transmission during sexual intercourse. If you have HIV, a syphilis infection is far more serious as the progression of the illness occurs much faster than normal. HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus and contraction of it causes very serious future health problems. Initially, you may not even know you have HIV within your body as there can be no symptoms straight away. However, eventually the immune system begins to be destroyed leading to the development of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS.  Even if syphilis is treated, HIV will remain within the body and currently the condition is only manageable to delay the onset of AIDS.

The plan of further monitoring and treatment in the long term depends on the stage of the syphilis infection before treatment was undertaken. If you were treated of syphilis whilst the infection was in either the primary or secondary stage, only three further checks are required at 3, 6 and 12 months. If it is the case that you suffer from latent syphilis, being that syphilis remains in the body but causes no obvious symptoms, then checks for the pathogen must be done for a further two years after treatment is administered.  Individuals suffering with neurosyphilis before treatment should be checked regularly for three year after the treatment to prevent any serious long term complications. Finally, if you were diagnosed with cardiovascular syphilis, you are required to have regular checkups for the rest of your life to monitor for any further complications from the condition.

Having syphilis does not have any long terms effect on fertility for either males or females.  As long as you do not have any syphilis bacteria remaining within the body at conception, there is no risk to the baby in terms of contracting congenital syphilis. You may test positive still on a blood test that examines levels of antibodies within the blood due to their longevity therefore it is vital you explain your previous treatment at your initial pre-natal appointment. 

Depending on how long the syphilis infection was present before you treated it, there may be some permanent complications due to the effects of the illness. In later stages of syphilis, multiple organ systems can be affected such as the skin, heart, brain, eyes, bones and nervous system. If these organs become damaged, this may be irreversible despite whether or not you treat the syphilis that caused the damaged. A common lasting effect of syphilis is permanent scaring left from the lesions previously on the skin. It is believed that the origin of the “beauty spot” was because people painted a spot on their face to cover up a syphilis related scar.  Mental health conditions may also be a long term consequence of syphilis, although this tends to only be in cases where treatment was severely delayed. Various other health problems such as shooting pain in various regions, loss of vision and heart disease may occur although all of these complaints are rare.

The vast majority of people have nothing to worry about as a permanent level of organ damage and subsequent problems because of this only tends to happen if the syphilis infection has been present for a period of twenty years or more.  Appropriate treatment of the syphilis will cure the symptoms caused by the syphilis, but symptoms caused by damage to the tissue itself will not be resolved therefore further treatment may be required for this regardless of the syphilis.

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