4 Typical Treatment Options for Syphilis

May 7th 2016

Modern treatment for syphilis is straightforward in most cases, but because of the issues caused by allergies and untreated cases, it's wise to remain wary of catching or spreading it. Antibiotic treatment cannot reverse any damage done before the treatment began, so if you have any reason to think that you may have contracted syphilis, see a medical practitioner for a test and appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

Single Injection

If you test for STDs as soon as you become aware that you may have been at risk of infection, you are likely to catch syphilis early, possibly even before it becomes symptomatic. At this stage, as long as you are not allergic to penicillin, an intramuscular injection of long-acting penicillin will clear up the infection. This injection contains an extremely large dose of the drug, which is necessary to wipe out the organism that causes the disease.

Multiple Injections

If it has taken you longer to realize you have an infection, or if you ignored an initial bout because symptoms subsided, long-term latent syphilis can be harder to treat. The main treatment in this case is repeated doses of the intramuscular penicillin. You will receive these three times, at weekly intervals, and the same dose of penicillin used in the single-injection treatment is given each time. It's important to make sure that the dose is adequate, as underdosing or getting the wrong penicillin mix can lead to antibiotic resistance in the organism, preventing or hindering future treatment.

Allergy Options

For those people who are allergic to penicillin, options are limited, and the treatments are not as effective. Doxycycline and tetracycline are sometimes used, though these are not appropriate for patients who are pregnant, who may need to be desensitized to penicillin to allow treatment. Cases of neurosyphilis are also sometimes treated with probenecid. These treatments require much closer scrutiny during application and must be accompanied by close clinical follow-up to ensure that they are working as expected. Extra clinical tests and sample inspection are required, increasing time and monetary costs.

Time to Heal

If you are diagnosed with syphilis, or any other STD, it makes sense to refrain from further sexual intercourse during treatment and while your body is recovering. This helps to allow any sores or lesions to heal fully as well as preventing the spread of the disease; although latex condoms help to prevent transmission, they are not 100 percent effective, so abstinence is recommended until all sores are completely healed and any tenderness has gone. Waiting for confirmation that the blood is clear of infection is the most sensible option.

It's also important to notify all of your previous sexual partners that they should get tested and treated accordingly. Once you test clear of the infection, you can resume sexual activity if you wish, but it is important to remember that syphilis can be caught multiple times and you will not have any immunity to the disease from having had it already, so you may want to take extra care.

Conclusion

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to serious consequences, particularly in pregnant women who can infect their babies during gestation. Treatment for syphilis is therefore medically urgent as soon as it is diagnosed, and the only way to diagnose it effectively is by getting an STD test.

Sources

CDC.gov "Syphilis treatment and care" http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/treatment.htm
WebMD.com "Antibiotics for syphilis" http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/antibiotics-for-syphilis
NHS.uk "Treating syphilis" http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Syphilis/Pages/Treatmentpg.aspx

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