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Whittall Street Clinic is featured in Channel 4's new programme ‘The Sex Clinic’, starts 10pm Thursday 11th April.
New Rapid HIV Testing clinic at St Martin’s in the Bullring
Now open every Tuesday 11.00am - 3.15pm - no appointment needed.
The clinic is located upstairs in the St Martin’s Centre for Health & Healing next to the Church in the Bullring. Entrance to the clinic is via St Martin’s church shop.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that often has no symptoms. Once it’s diagnosed it’s easily treated with antibiotics. Untreated syphilis can cause long-term health problems.
Over the past few years there has been a large rise in the amount of people being diagnosed with syphilis in Birmingham. It is important that anyone who has had unprotected sex has a blood test for syphilis as part of the full sexual health screen.
Syphilis is caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum. It is able to pass through the small breaks in the skin or mucous. It is also able to pass from infected mother to the baby inside her womb.
After four weeks inside the body, the bacteria cause painless sore at the site of infection. The sore is called chancre and does not have any symptoms, and is therefore missed by the patient. After 4-6 weeks, the sore heals on its own. This stage is called primary syphilis. If not treated at this stage, the bacteria will become inactive for 4-6 weeks.
A third of untreated patients will develop secondary syphilis. After secondary syphilis, the bacteria become inactive again. At the final (tertiary) stage, the bacteria spread to several systems of the body and causes irreversible damage to heart, brain, skin, or bones.
How is it passed on?
Syphilis is very contagious in primary and secondary stages. It can be passed on by:
- Having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected
- Sharing sex toys
- Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has syphilis sores or rashes
- Mother to baby transmission if a mother remains untreated at birth
- Syphilis can also be transmitted by blood transfusions; this rare in the UK as donated blood is routinely screened for syphilis.
Syphilis has three separate stages, primary, secondary and tertiary (or latent). Each stage has different symptoms, or no symptoms at all.
The symptoms are often quite vague and may be the same symptoms as a lot of different health problems.
- one or more painless sores on the vagina, penis, rectum or mouth. Because the sores are painless, they may go unnoticed.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A painless rash over the body or on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- A flu-like illness with swollen glands
- White patches on the tongue, mouth or genitals
- Fever, fatigue, rash, aches and pains, and loss of appetite
Tertiary (including latent):
- Serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes, and other parts of the body.
Syphilis in pregnancy
Syphilis infection in the mother can easily be passed onto the baby during pregnancy. This may cause miscarriage or serious health problems, death or deformity in the newborn baby.
All pregnant women are tested for syphilis at 14-16 weeks by their midwives.
How is syphilis diagnosed?
A blood test for different antibodies (body’s response) to syphilis is how infection with syphilis is investigated.
What is the treatment for syphilis?
Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. Penicillin is the antibiotic of choice. Depending on the stage of syphilis, it should be injected intramuscularly once a week for up to three weeks. Doxycylcine is the alternative treatment that should be taken as tablets twice a day and depending on the stage of infection for 2-4 weeks.
Some patients may develop Jarish-Herxheimer reaction several hours after treatment of primary or secondary syphilis. The symptoms of this reaction include: fever, chills, joint pain, headache, nausea, rash and feeling generally unwell. These symptoms disappear within 24 hours.
Treatment of syphilis must be followed up with blood tests at 3, 6, and 12 months. It is important that patients keep their follow up appointments. This is to ensure infection has completely cured.
What are the complications of untreated syphilis?
Syphilis can infect any organ in human body. Eyes (uveitis or inflammation of the middle layers of the eye), skin (sores, ulcers, rashes, wart like lesions in the anogenital skin), heart, brain, liver, kidneys and bones can be affected by syphilis. Infected mothers can transmit syphilis to their babies. Syphilis can enhance the risk of acquiring HIV infection if sexually exposed.
It is important to treat sexual partner(s) of patients with syphilis. Not treating the sexual partners may result in re-infection with syphilis.
You can help protect yourself against syphilis by using condoms every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.