Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syphilis

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syphilis

Wait. No one actually gets syphilis anymore, right?

We wish. In 2015, the number of syphilis cases in the U.S. was the highest it’s been since 1994. In fact, between 2000 and 2015, the number has more than tripled.

Oh sweet Jesus. Am I gonna die?

Probably not. Especially since you can cure it with penicillin if you’re diagnosed early.

OK, but like, worst-case scenario. Could I die?

Potentially. Late-stage syphilis – which can happen years or even decades after the first infection – is pretty terrifying, and can lead to “paralysis, gradual blindness, dementia, and death.” Fun times!

Noooo! How do I keep the syph away from me?

Use condoms and get tested often. It’s far more prevalent in men, but not exclusive to them. And pregnant women can pass it to their fetus, so that’s even more fun. Basically, your job is to assume nothing, practice safe sex, and get tested after each new partner.

How do I know if I’ve got it?

You might not! You might get zero symptoms. But a common first symptom is a tiny sore on your junk, which doesn’t hurt and goes away on its own but is suuuper-contagious. In the second stage, you might get more bumps or a rash anywhere on your body, which also goes away on its own. You also might get a fever, a sore throat, or swollen glands. This is often followed by a “latent stage,” where you have no symptoms (often for years), but which could lead to late-stage syphilis. Again: assume nothing and get tested.

Oh, by the way, there’s also ocular syphilis, which can cause blindness. Don’t fuck with syphilis!

I’m scared.

Don’t be. Even at its new, skyrocketing rate of infection – 7.1 cases per 100,000 people – that’s still just 0.0071% of the population. You are probably not going to get syphilis. But that’s no reason not to practice common sense and safe sex, like you should be doing anyway.

OK, phew. Thank you!

You’re welcome!

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