STI symptoms: Doctor warns of a ‘dangerous imitator’ that can affect nerves and the brain
Sexual health nurse explains the symptoms of syphilis
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Dr Manoj Malu commented on the rise of syphilis infections he has seen in his clinic. “Late diagnosis can be complex,” he cautioned, adding that the “tragedy” surrounding syphilis is that people are mostly unaware about the condition. “This lack of awareness and the fact that it can be easily missed creates a dangerous problem,” said Dr Malu. “Syphilis is known as the great imitator – it can mimic many symptoms and if left untreated, it can affect your heart, blood vessels, even your nerves and your brain.”
Dr Malu warned that a long-term syphilis infection “can even cause dementia”.
The NHS highlighted the “early” warning signs of infection that may come and go.
Known as “primary syphilis”, a small, painless sore or ulcer – called a chancre – might develop.
Easily overlooked, the sore might appear on the genitals, including the anus, or within the mouth, on the lips, fingers, or buttocks.
There might only be one sore, but some people might develop several.
Moreover, swollen glands could emerge in the neck, groin, or armpits.
“These symptoms usually pass within two to eight weeks,” the national health service cautioned.
Such symptoms typically appear within three weeks of the original infection.
Dr Malu added: “Many patients won’t have any symptoms and syphilis impacts every part of life.
“It is a frightening infection – but it is easy to diagnose and treat, if caught early.”
If, however, the infection is not caught and treated in the earliest of stages, later symptoms of syphilis might emerge.
Known as “secondary syphilis”, the NHS warned of a “blotchy red rash” that can develop anywhere on the body.
However, the rash most commonly appears on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
There may be “small skin growths” – similar to genital warts – that appear on the vulva (in women) and/or anus (in both sexes).
White patches could develop in the mouth, and “flu-like symptoms” might be experienced, such as:
- Joint pains
- High temperature.
Occasionally, patchy hair loss might occur but, again “these symptoms usually pass within a few weeks”.
Even if you have no symptoms, an infection might still be present, which can lead to “serious problems”.
The infection can be passed on to others, and long-term health issues include:
- Dementia symptoms
- Loss of coordination
- Vision problems or blindness
- Heart problems.
“The best place to get tested for syphilis is a sexual health clinic,” the NHS stated.
“You also don’t have to pay for treatment if you go to a sexual health or GUM clinic.”
Dr Manoj Malu is the Director and Founder of Clarewell Clinics.
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