syphilis blood test

When a Syphilis Test is ordered?

A test is essential when someone:

  • Has syphilis symptoms —  when there is a chancre on the genitals or throat.
  • Is either infected with or being treated for another STD — such as gonorrhea or HIV.
  • Is pregnant. A test is mandatory as CDC recommends, purely to protect the baby from a possible infection.
  • Has non-specific symptoms that resemble or point to those of syphilis. Such a test can help in determining the exact cause of the illness.
  • Is a man, who has anal sex with men.
  • Has engaged in a high-risk sexual activity, whether man or woman.
  • Has one or more partners who have tested positive for syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, or other such STDs.

As per CDC recommendations, periodical follow-up testing for such cases is essential. When a person has been treated for syphilis in the past, a follow-up testing helps in ensuring that treatment is successful and the infection cured.

NOTE:

In people who are sexually active, they should consult a doctor about any suspicious rash or sore in the genital area. A chancre on the genital most probably indicated a syphilis infection but that’s not the only STD which causes genital sores and rashes. There are many other sexually transmitted diseases besides syphilis.

If you are tested positive, tell your sexual partner(s) to get tested as quickly as possible. That’s the least you can do to save a spouse. This is a must to stop the spread of the disease.

Why It Is Done

Syphilis bacteria can spread through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. If not treated in time, syphilis is capable of causing terminal heart attacks, brain damage, bone and spinal cord damage, complete blindness, and death.

The risk of contracting other STDs increases if you have syphilis. This STD prepares the ground for the invasion other STDs.  When chancres are present, you are at least 10 times more likely to be infected with HIV, if exposed. So, if you have them, you should be tested for HIV.

How a Syphilis test is done

A test for syphilis is done to Screen for syphilis or check treatment for a syphilis infection. A screening test helps the doctor to look for a certain disease or condition before the real symptoms manifest. This increases our chance of finding the infection before we are forced to test for syphilis. An advanced diagnosis can save precious time in treating the patients for a full recovery before permanent damage is done to organs and tissues.

Methods Used:

There are two types of tests used for confirming the infections. The first one searches for the antibodies and the other method searches for the Treponema pallidum bacteria or genetic materials from the bacteria.

Why are there two methods instead of one?

In the early stages of infection with Treponema pallidum, our body is not in a state of producing sufficient antibodies. The time taken by the human body to produce syphilis antibodies varies considerably. This period is called the Syphilis Window period, which varies between 2 to 90 days. Some people show up the antibodies as quickly as 2 days and some take as long as 90 days for the same. But after 90 days almost everybody shows up the antibodies.

As it is not possible to determine the window period for a particular STD in each individual, so we use two different methods to determine an infection. If one method tests negative we try out the other. Even if someone tests positive, the other method is used to confirm the result. Otherwise, it is considered a false positive. But in both the cases, the individual has to undergo another test in 90 days.

Screening for Syphilis:

Antibody tests: These tests detect antibodies in the blood serum (Serology test) and sometimes in the cerebrospinal fluid. This test is taken if the history of infection indicates that the patient is well beyond the window period. If the individual doesn’t display the detectable amount of antibodies, then there can be two reasons.

  1. He is well within the Window period.
  2. He is not infected.

So, the individual has to undergo the following test.

Diagnosis Syphilis Test:

The purpose of this test is to detect the Treponema pallidum bacteria or its genetic materials. In early stages of Syphilis, there may not be sufficient antibodies, so an antibody test will most likely come out negative. To avoid such false negatives, this test searches for the bacteria itself in the test samples taken from the chancre or genital sore. A special instrument called a dark-field microscope is used to detect the bacteria.

Home Syphilis Test:

There is a home testing method that can be done at home with a Syphilis rapid test kit. These kits are equally accurate and use a blood test similar to the lab method for syphilis testing.

Sometimes, testing for syphilis alone may not be enough, so you have to test for HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia additionally. Some home kits come as a test bundle kit with the following for these STDs combined.

This bundle contains the following tests:

  • 2 x HIV Rapid Test
  • Chlamydia Test
  • Gonorrhea Test
  • Syphilis Test

Read about the details of each type of Syphilis test here.

Syphilis Rash on back

Syphilis symptoms can never point out what a deadly killer this disease can be! It is often called “the great imitator” and there are valid reasons for that. Because these symptoms are often confused with symptoms of other diseases considered less dangerous. In real life situations, one can never get an inkling of a possible Syphilis infection if he is not looking out for signs of Syphilis.

As per United States Center for Disease Control, this STD is far more dangerous than it looks to be. In 2006 alone, the CDC recorded more than 36,000 cases. Out of that, nearly, there were 10,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis. Both men are women are equally affected by this disease is, however, it is very common in women between 20 to 24 years of age. In men, the 35 to 40 age category is the common victim. Like any other STDs, this disease propagates through direct sexual contact of very intimate nature. It may be any of the three– vaginal, oral or rectal sex.

Syphilis Symptoms

Syphilis has three distinct stages with subtle but different symptoms. People who do not recognize the early symptoms remain untreated for a considerable time so the disease enters the latent stage. Its onslaught on each sex is as devastating as the other, however, syphilis symptoms in women are more marked than syphilis symptoms in men.

First Stage of Syphilis

The first symptoms of syphilis is a painless sore mostly on genitals. It can appear on the tongue if the infection took place due to oral sex.  It is popularly believed that the sore, that resembles an ulcer, appears at the spot where the disease first entered the body. This is called a chancre.

On an average, first symptoms take around 21 days, however, the sore appears between 10 and 90 days after exposure to the bacteria. It is not unusual for people to have several sores, but in most cases, there is a single sore. It is usually painless and small. If not treated, it disappears in 3-6 weeks, on its own. Because it is painless and disappears without any medicine, people often do not consider it to be serious, so they do not seek medical advice. Even if the chancre heals, the bacteria remains inside the body and thrives. Now, it progresses to the second stage.

Second Stage of Syphilis

In this stage, the disease manifests a wide range of symptoms. Each of these assorted symptoms indicates some other simpler disease. This stage is referred to as the secondary stage of Syphilis. There are lesions on the mucous membranes. There are rashes on different parts of the skin. In some cases, the complete body is covered with rashes. They are so faint that it is difficult to notice them in some cases. The strange part is
Syphilis Rash may not have proportionate itching. These rashes appear to be dry livid and grey patches without much activity at the area. Secondary symptoms of Syphilis include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches. With this fever or feverish conditions come blisters, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands. In some cases, there may be hair loss in patches.

Third Stage of Syphilis: Latent Syphilis

If it is left untreated at this stage, it will enter into a stage with no further visible symptoms. During this period, the disease takes up very destructive and evil turn. It is difficult to say how long the disease will sleep in this condition, but it’s very long period. This is called the latent stage. During this stage, infected people don’t manifest many symptoms and they don’t spread the disease. The disease is still present in them and they can be effectively treated.

Later Stage of Syphilis

This stage appears in people after a very long period, say about 10 to 20 years after the initial symptoms. Such cases are less in number, less than 25%. This is also called as the constitutional stage. During this stage, Syphilis doesn’t spare any internal organ, even brain. It affects the heart, blood vessels, eyes, liver, joints, bones, and nerves too. So, there are motor dysfunctions such as difficulty in coordinating muscle movements and partial or complete paralysis. There also can be sensory dysfunctions such as complete numbness or in patches. The onset of blindness also comes as a result. Due to the affection of the brain, there comes confusion, loss of memory, and dementia. All these organ damages lead to death in the final stage.

Syphilis Testing

The disease can be detected through a simple STD screening that includes examining cells from a lesion or chancre in the first two stages of syphilis, and blood tests during any stage of syphilis. If detected during the first year, a single shot of penicillin will eradicate the disease and prevent further damage. Because the early symptoms can be so vague and mistaken for other illnesses, the CDC says that it is extremely important for sexually active teens as well as adults whose behavior might increase their risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases to schedule regular Syphilis testing to screen for syphilis. Routine, regular STD testing can detect early enough to prevent permanent damage from the disease.

What is Syphilis?

 

what is syphilis

what is syphilis

Very few people know that Syphilis can be more destructive than HIV.

It is no ordinary STD. It can be called the mother of all STDs. Though Gonorrhea  can contest for the position, yet I consider syphilis to be the root of all STDs, because it spares no area or organ in the human body.

This may sound very unscientific to many because every STD has its unique bacteria or virus, but there are other factors which makes these STDs are very similar. These micro-organisms not only replicate in human body but also create a susceptibility for future infections. The first infection of a STD renders the individual very susceptible to other venereal diseases. So, other than the susceptibility it causes, following are the causes for such a consideration.

The first reason for such a consideration is that  Syphilis is very very old. Throughout the history of the human race, you can find the references to the presence of syphilis. Some of the cases of leprosy or lepra were actually Syphilis in its tertiary stage but misdiagnosed.

However, the primary reason for such a consideration is that syphilis is very destructive. The extent to which syphilis can destroy human body is unimaginable for a common man. It can affect soft tissues, bones, teeth, skin, and vital organs like brain, eyes, liver, and almost any organ. It can completely destroy, deform, and disfigure the man body over time. It can destroy a human being physically as well as mentally. The symptoms of all other STDs can be found in a vast array of symptoms of syphilis.

The third reason is syphilis is caused by bacteria. The bacteria are primitive hence older than the evolution of viruses. The primitiveness of this disease confirms it is too old. The diseases caused by the virus are complicated and sophisticated, hence latest in origin. On the other hand, diseases caused by bacteria are comparatively simple and primitive. Probably, this simple STD has evolved with time to give rise to complicated viruses such as HIV and HSV.

Syphilis bacteria

Syphilis bacteria morphology

The cause of infection of this STD is a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. This bacteria is a spirochete. This s spiral shaped. This shape helps it to be highly mobile.

It can attack the human cells from both the sides of his long body. It has a head like structures at both ends.  Next to that is the insertion point that helps in attacking the cell membrane and penetrate it. The “axial filaments” help it in locomotion. It has bulbous growths at the outer side which is called the “balloon body.” The inner side of the coil is called the “intestinal mesosome” and the outside is call the “laminated mesosome.” The laminated mesosome is for its own protection from outside attacks on it. This is, though primitive, a well-developed bacterium.

How syphilis attacks us

The most common way of syphilis infection is intimate sexual contact, either natural or unnatural. This includes vaginal, oral or anal sex. It can also be passed to a person through prolonged physical contact with an infected person. Prolonged kissing with an infected person is no exception.

Other possible causes of contacting syphilis are sharing infected needles or infected sex toys with an infected person. Infected blood transfusions can be a direct cause of infections too.

However, that’s not the only one. An infected mother invariably passes it to her child. Such children are born with the disease. This is called congenital or neonatal  Syphilis. If the state of the mother is very advanced, say she has advanced to tertiary Syphilis state, then the child may be stillborn or if alive, can come with severe health problems. Such children have a very short lifespan and may die shortly after labor.

Syphilis is a highly contagious disease, but it needs direct contact. It can never propagate from a donor to a victim t survive for long without a host, it cannot propagate by sharing toilets, bathtubs, clothing, and utensils.

How common is it?

The number of reported cases of syphilis has risen substantially in the U.S.A in the past decade. There has been a regular increase in the number of cases, but they are considerably less in comparison to a number of cases of HIV. Men who have sex with men are very prone to this infection.

It is seen that people with this infection have some common complications. They are very prone to HIV, at least three to five times more in comparison to people who are clean. The cause for this is that the genital sores/chancres caused by syphilis can further crack and bleed during an intercourse. This open wound makes it easier for the HIV virus  to enter the blood easily during any sort of sexual activity.

If somebody contacts both HIV and syphilis, it can be really serious, because syphilis can progress much more rapidly under such conditions.

Preventing syphilis

The surest way to beat a syphilis infection is to say “NO” to form of sexual contact. Otherwise one can choose to have sexual contact with a partner who is clean and remains faithful thereafter.

One can minimize the risk of contracting any other sexually transmitted diseases by sticking to the following time-tested practices:

  • Use a male/female condom during sex
  • Use a dental dam, generally a square of plastic, during kissing or oral sex
  • Avoid sex toys or needles used by others

Best way to get rid of this killer STD is to detect it early by STD testing, and then go for appropriate treatment. Otherwise, it hides itself so you don’t feel the need to pay attention. It uses this time to attack and destroy those areas of the body first that it can access easily. It’s like a dangerous enemy who keeps bugging your home when you look elsewhere. When it reaches the “secondary stage,” it manifests again with some acute symptoms, but by then it becomes difficult to annihilate.

It keeps your attention away by imitating other diseases and for most of the time, it keeps you confused. What makes it the deadliest of all STDs is that it makes permanent changes to your body and your major organs; even your brain is not spared. It doesn’t stop till its victim lies dead.

Syphilis is neither difficult to diagnose nor cure. You can a get a  Home Syphilis Test Kit and get a diagnosis in about as quickly as 15 to 20 minutes. After a conclusive diagnosis, you can consult a doctor to start your treatment.  You have to get early antibiotic treatment.