STI FAQs


 
This provides up-to-date information on Syphilis, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Please do not use this information solely for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. Instead we recommend you visit the LoveYourself HIV testing hub to avail of free testing for HIV and some of these STIs. The hub can recommend other clinics from which you can avail further STI testing and treatment.

Syphilis

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called "the great imitator" because so many of its signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.

How do people get syphilis?

Syphilis is passed on from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores can also occur on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it on to the babies they are carrying.

Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.

What are the signs and symptoms of syphilis infection in adults?

Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated. Although transmission occurs from persons with sores who are in the primary or secondary stage, many of these sores are unrecognized. Thus, transmission may occur from persons who are unaware of their infection.

Primary Stage
The primary stage of syphilis is usually marked by the appearance of a single sore (called a chancre), but there may be multiple sores. The time between infection with syphilis and the start of the first symptom can range from 10 to 90 days (average 21 days). The chancre is usually firm, round, small, and painless. It appears at the spot where syphilis entered the body. The chancre lasts 3 to 6 weeks, and the chancre heals without treatment. However, if adequate treatment for the syphilis infection is not administered, then it will progress to the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage
Skin rashes and mucous membrane lesions characterize the secondary stage. This stage typically starts with the development of a rash on one or more areas of the body. The rash usually does not cause itching. Rashes associated with secondary syphilis can appear as the chancre is healing or several weeks after the chancre has healed. The characteristic rashes of secondary syphilis may appear as rough, red, or reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. However, rashes with a different appearance may occur on other parts of the body, sometimes resembling rashes caused by other diseases. Sometimes rashes associated with secondary syphilis are so faint that they may become unnoticeable.

In addition to rashes, symptoms of secondary syphilis may include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. The signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis will resolve with or without treatment. But without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly late stages of disease.

Latent and Late Stages
The latent (hidden) stage of syphilis begins when primary and secondary symptoms disappear. Without treatment, the infected person will continue to have syphilis even though there are no signs or symptoms; infection remains in the body. This latent stage can last for years.

About 15% of people who have not been treated for syphilis will progress to the late stages of syphilis. This may occur 10–20 years after infection was first acquired. In the late stages of syphilis, the disease may subsequently damage the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. Signs and symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.

How is syphilis diagnosed?

Some healthcare providers can diagnose syphilis by examining material from a chancre (infectious sore) using a special microscope called a dark-field microscope. If syphilis bacteria are present in the sore, they will show up when observed through the microscope.

A blood test is another way to determine whether someone has syphilis. Shortly after infection occurs, the body produces syphilis antibodies that can be detected by an accurate, safe, and inexpensive blood test. A low level of antibodies will likely stay in the blood for months or years even after the disease has been successfully treated. Because untreated syphilis in a pregnant woman can infect and possibly kill her developing baby, every pregnant woman should have their blood tested for syphilis.

What is the link between syphilis and HIV?

Genital sores (chancres) caused by syphilis make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually. There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to the infection when syphilis is present.

Ulcerative STDs that cause sores, ulcers, or breaks in the skin or mucous membranes, such as syphilis, disrupt barriers that provide protection against infections. The genital ulcers caused by syphilis can bleed easily, and when they come into contact with oral and rectal mucosa during sex, increase the infectiousness of and susceptibility to HIV. Having other STDs is also an important predictor for becoming HIV infected because STDs are a marker for behaviors associated with HIV transmission.

What is the treatment for syphilis?

Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single intramuscular injection of penicillin, an antibiotic, will cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year. Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year. For people who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics are available to treat syphilis. There are no home remedies or over-the-counter drugs that will cure syphilis. Treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done.

Because effective treatment is available, it is important that persons be screened for syphilis on an ongoing basis if their sexual behaviors put them at risk for STDs.

Persons who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed. Persons with syphilis must notify their sex partners so that they also can be tested and receive treatment if necessary.

Will syphilis recur?

Having syphilis once does not protect a person from getting it again. Following successful treatment, people can still be susceptible to re-infection. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether someone has syphilis. Because syphilis sores can be hidden in the vagina, rectum, or mouth, it may not be obvious that a sex partner has syphilis. Talking with a health care provider will help to determine the need to be re-tested for syphilis after being treated.

How can syphilis be prevented?

The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of syphilis because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STIs so that preventive action can be taken.

Genital ulcer diseases, like syphilis, can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of syphilis, as well as genital herpes and chancroid, only when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected.

Condoms lubricated with spermicides (especially Nonoxynol-9 or N-9) are no more effective than other lubricated condoms in protecting against the transmission of STIs. Use of condoms lubricated with N-9 is not recommended for STI/HIV prevention. Transmission of an STI, including syphilis cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and/or douching after sex. Any unusual discharge, sore, or rash, particularly in the groin area, should be a signal to refrain from having sex and to see a doctor immediately.

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis?

"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver and also refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. When first infected, a person can develop an “acute” infection, which can range in severity from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization.

Acute Hepatitis B refers to the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus. Some people are able to fight the infection and clear the virus. For others, the infection remains and leads to a “chronic,” or lifelong, illness.

Chronic Hepatitis B refers to the illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body. Over time, the infection can cause serious health problems.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enter the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth. Hepatitis B is not spread through breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. Unlike some forms of Hepatitis, Hepatitis B is not spread by contaminated food or water.

What are the symptoms of acute Hepatitis B?

Not everyone will show symptoms from acute Hepatitis B, especially young children. Most adults have symptoms that appear within 3 months of exposure. Symptoms can last from a few weeks to several months and may include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, grey-colored stools, dark urine, joint pain, and jaundice.

What are the symptoms of chronic Hepatitis B?

Many people with chronic Hepatitis B do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Even though a person has no symptoms, the virus can still be detected in the blood. Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis B can take up to 30 years to develop. Damage to the liver can silently occur during this time. When symptoms do appear, they are similar to acute infection and can be a sign of advanced liver disease.

How serious is Hepatitis B?

Over time, approximately 15%–25% of people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Every year, approximately 3,000 people in the United States and more than 600,000 people worldwide die from Hepatitis B-related liver disease.

How is Hepatitis B diagnosed and treated?

Hepatitis B is diagnosed with specific blood tests that are not part of blood work typically done during regular physical exams.

For acute Hepatitis B, doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, fluids, and close medical monitoring. Some people may need to be hospitalized.

Those living with chronic Hepatitis B should be evaluated for liver problems and monitored on a regular basis. Even though a person may not have symptoms or feel sick, damage to the liver can still occur. Several new treatments are available that can significantly improve the health of a person living with chronic Hepatitis B, and delay or reverse the effects of the patient's liver disease.

Can Hepatitis B be prevented?

Yes. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. For adults, the Hepatitis B vaccine is given as a series of 3 shots over a period of 6 months. The entire series is needed for long-term protection. Booster doses are not currently recommended.

Who should get vaccinated against Hepatitis B?

Vaccination is recommended for certain groups, including:
  • Anyone having sex with an infected partner
  • People with multiple sex partners
  • Anyone with a sexually transmitted infection
  • Men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • People who inject drugs
  • People who live with someone with Hepatitis B
  • People with chronic liver disease, end stage renal disease, or HIV infection
  • Healthcare and public safety workers exposed to blood
  • Travelers to certain countries
  • All infants at birth

Prices of Hepatitis profiling

Healthway Alabang - P3,899* - inclusive of Hepatitis A and B. You can get the result after 3 days.

Hi-Precision Diagnostics Alabang - P3,710* - inclusive of Hepatitis A, B and C. You can get the result after 2-3 days.

*Prices as of October 2013, and are subject to change.

References:

  1. http://www.thebody.com/
  2. http://www.adamslove.org/en-d.php?id=210
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/default.htm
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfactsyphilis.htm
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/