To prevent getting syphilis and avoid spreading it, you must know first how you can get syphilis and how it spreads. Knowing this will then arm you with the measures to stay free of syphilis.
Syphilis is transmitted from an infected partner through sexual acts whether oral, vaginal, or anal. It also spreads through the use of infected sexual toys and shared infected needles used for intravenous drug use. Another mode of spread is the administration of infected blood to a recipient. An infected mother can also pass on syphilis to her baby.
Additionally, you may get syphilis and not know it because the first symptom of syphilis is a painless sore that appears on your genitals, which heals on its own without treatment.
That does not mean you have been cured. The syphilis causative bacteria, Treponema pallidum, continues to grow inside your body and the disease develops further through stages causing complications that can damage your organs during the tertiary stage.
In spite of treatment at this late stage, the damage to the organs is irreversible. Syphilis has also been a cause of mortality.
Syphilis increases the risk of HIV transmission by two to five times and the co-existence of syphilis and HIV infection is common. Untreated, syphilis has a mortality rate of 8% to 58%, with a greater death rate in males.
Knowing how you should prevent getting syphilis, therefore, carries tremendous importance.
Syphilis prevention tips
Having gone through these facts, let us elaborate on what steps you can take to avoid getting syphilis.
- Do not have sex with an unknown person. He or she could be infected. Syphilis is a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD) and even a single act of sex with an infected person can give you this disease.
- Before starting a relationship, get both of you tested to be sure both of you are healthy and without any sexually transmitted disease.
- Be monogamous. Stick to one partner whom you know is not infected and who you know is sticking only to you.
- Do condoms protect you from syphilis? If you do have multiple partners, practice safe sex. Always use a properly fitting condom and wear it correctly for vaginal and anal sex. This will prevent its tear. Use it even for oral sex. But remember, condom reduces your risk by only 85% and not by 100%. Similarly, women can use a dental dam during oral sex. Do not use a reused condom. A new condom with every sexual encounter is a must. Use a lubricant, which will further help in preventing the condom from tearing. Incidentally, lubricants with spermicides do not help to prevent STDs. Douching or washing the genitals with soap after sexual intercourse, also does not prevent syphilis or any other STD after unprotected sex.
- Men should avoid homosexual relationships with unknown partners. Men having sex with men (MSM) is a very high-risk group.
- Avoid shared needles. Drug users should avoid using shared needles.
- Similarly, avoid using shared sex toys.
- Make sure you do not have a cut or bruise on your hands and fingers to avoid getting infected during foreplay.
- Any sexual act with suspicion should always be followed up by testing after the due window period. Do not wait for symptoms. You could easily miss them. Take complete treatment if the test is positive.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. This will make you reckless and go for sex without precautions and protection.
- Transmission of syphilis through blood donation is now rare because of screening procedures followed by blood banks. Modern storage methods do not allow the syphilis bacteria to survive beyond 48 hours. But, in third-world countries, this could still be a problem. In such cases, doctors should use blood only from blood banks that follow strict guidelines for storage and screening.
- Pregnant women should always be screened for STDs and treated if necessary. This screening is done during the first trimester and before labor.
- Medical and paramedical staff should use disposable gloves when examining patients.
- If you have syphilis, do not spread it to others. Do not have sex even with a condom. Take the full course of treatment and go for sex only after your doctor’s okay. Notify your previous partners of the disease so that they can get tested and treated if necessary.
Why preventing syphilis is important?
The primary symptom of syphilis is a sore which is painless and heals on its own even without treatment. But the syphilis bacteria continue to grow and multiply in the blood and keep you symptomless for years. The complications of syphilis then set in and can seriously damage your heart, brain, liver, bones, and other organs of the body. This damage to the organs is irreversible.
In pregnancy, syphilis causes stillbirths, miscarriages, and death of the newborn within a few days after birth. Babies who survive develop complications that are wide-ranging. Again control of syphilis is important because it increases the risk of HIV two to five times.
Tips to prevent syphilis explained above, therefore carry great value.