STDs in Men Overview (cont.)

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Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria. If not treated, the disease progresses through three phases and can also persist in a latent state. The initial manifestation is a painless ulcer known as a chancre at the site of sexual contact. The chancre develops 10 to 90 days after infection and resolves after 3 to 6 weeks. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, but if this first stage is untreated, secondary syphilis can develop. In secondary syphilis, there is spread of the disease to other organs, causing various symptoms that can include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, arthritis, kidney disease, or liver problems. After this stage, some people will have a latent infection for years, after which tertiary syphilis develops. Tertiary syphilis can cause different conditions including brain infection, the development of nodules known as gummas, aortic aneurysm, loss of sight, and deafness. Fortunately, syphilis is curable with proper antibiotic treatment.

How are STDs diagnosed?

Many STDs are diagnosed based upon the clinical history and characteristic physical findings. Herpes and syphilis are two conditions that can produce identifiable signs and symptoms. Often the diagnosis of an infection depends upon identification of the organism. A number of different tests are available that are based either upon detection of the surface proteins of the organism or of the genetic material of the organism. These methods are more commonly used than the culture to identify sexually transmitted infections.

What is the treatment for STDs?

STDs caused by bacteria -- chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis -- are typically curable with antibiotics. Trichomonas infection can also be cured with effective medications that eliminate the parasite.

Viral STDs may resolve on their own, such as HPV infection. There is no treatment for HPV infection, although it commonly does not cause problems. Genital warts can be treated by destruction and removal. HBV and, to a greater extent, HCV infections may persist and develop into chronic infection. Antiviral drugs and interferon may be used to manage these long-term infections, but they do not cure the infection. Likewise, HIV treatment drugs can manage the infection, but they do not cure the condition. HSV infection persists for life, although antiviral drugs can help reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/24/2013

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