Almost a year ago, the Pitt Men’s Study sent out an alert about the rise in Syphilis cases in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the number of new infections is still on the rise. The disturbing fact is that the surge is being driven by cases among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Signs of Syphilis
Syphilis usually begins with the appearance of a sore (called a chancre) about 10 to 90 days after exposure. The chancre is usually firm, round, small, and painless. The chancre lasts 3 to 6 weeks, and it heals on its own. However, the infection doesn’t go away without proper treatment.
As the disease progresses, it can include fever, swollen lymph glands, rash, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. The signs of this “secondary stage” of syphilis will resolve with or without treatment, but, again, it doesn’t go away.
In its later stages, years later, the disease can cause damage to internal organs, the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. Signs and symptoms of the “late stage” include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.
What can you do?
Get tested. Syphilis is easily cured in its early stages. A single injection of penicillin will cure a person who has had syphilis for less
than a year. For more information about MSM and syphilis, you can go to the CDC’s Syphilis and MSM web page
You can also go to the STD testing resource page. Enter your zip code to find testing centers near you.