The Dangers of Syphilis in Thailand! It’s Resurgence, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention.

Syphilis Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis in Thailand is regarded as an old sexually transmitted infection. People thought it was decreasing, but now it is back on the rise. Especially in the Men having Sex with Men community. Treponema pallidum causes syphilis. It takes two to four weeks, or sometimes up to three months, for symptoms to appear after infection.”

The disease can be dangerous to different body systems if not treated. It can affect the circulatory and nervous systems. Treatment is available for the disease. Additionally, pregnant women with this infection can transmit the infection to their unborn children, resulting in congenital syphilis.

The infection progresses through stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary, each with different signs and symptoms.

syphilis in Thailand

How does it spread

People can transmit the infection through direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby. Casual contact with objects like toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, or sharing clothes cannot transmit it.

Understanding Syphilis Trends in Thailand

A recent study looked at the infection trends in Thailand in 2020 and found important insights. According to data from the Health Data Center, there were 30,302 individuals diagnosed with syphilis last year. This number translates to a morbidity rate of 45.2 per 100,000 people, with the highest rates observed among young adults aged 15-24 years. Notably, the male to female ratio was 1:0.8, indicating a slightly higher prevalence among males.

The study found that a large number of those impacted were temporary workers or factory employees. These individuals accounted for 43.6% of all cases. Furthermore, 19.1% of people with syphilis also had HIV, showing that they face multiple health issues.

Syphilis During Pregnancy

Among pregnant women, the prevalence rate was 0.56%, with the median age at diagnosis being 21.2 years. Pregnant teenagers, students, and manual laborers are at higher risk for the infection. Additionally, pregnant women with HIV are also at risk.

The results indicate the need for targeted health education and prevention plans. This is particularly important for young people and manual laborers.

Providing specific plans can help improve their overall health and well-being. Addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by these groups is crucial. Ensuring that those living with HIV receive prompt and continuous syphilis treatment is also imperative.

Symptoms and Stages of syphilis

Symptoms of this infection may not appear until the later stages of the disease. By this time, significant impacts on the body may already be occurring. It may begin mildly and be difficult to notice initially. However, it can worsen over time and have periods of recurrence.

Stages of syphilis include:

Primary syphilis

In the primary stage of syphilis, you may notice sores, also known as chancres, that can appear anywhere on your body. This symptom is painless and it develops and lives hidden at the site where the bacteria entered your body. Often, people mistake a chancre for a pimple, ingrown hair, or harmless bump.

However, it can actually be the source of infection when engaging in sexual activity with others. And because the sores aren’t painful and can live in hidden places, you may not notice them.

It usually occurs in or around the area. While some individuals may develop only one chancre, others may experience multiple sores. Normally the areas that develops chancre:

  • Lips or mouth
  • Anal area
  • Genital area

The sores can heal on their own in about 3 to 6 weeks, but you can still spread the infection to others if you do not get proper treatment. Medication can reliably cure it in its early stage. However, if left untreated, it can progress to a secondary stage of syphilis.

Secondary syphilis

A skin rash often identifies the secondary stage. This rash may occur while the initial chancre is healing or a few weeks after it has healed.

The symptoms of secondary syphilis are:

  • Rashes develop on palms of hands and soles of feet. It may look rough, red, or reddish-brown or maybe so faint that it’s hard to see
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Hair Loss
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches

If you don’t get treatment, the symptoms might go away, but the bacteria will remain in your body. The bacteria can then develop into a more severe stage.

Latent syphilis

This stage is also known as the hidden stage because it exhibits no symptoms. Even if you don’t have symptoms, the infection can still stay in your body and get worse. This can be extremely dangerous because it can last for many years. While one might hope that symptoms will never come back, without treatment, the disease can lead to a tertiary stage.

Tertiary syphilis

30% to 40% of untreated cases can lead to tertiary syphilis, also known as late stage syphilis. This condition may cause various health problems. Seeking treatment for the infection, at this stage, is important to prevent complications.

Tertiary syphilis can cause significant impacts on the body and its organs, which is life-threatening. These effects include:

  • Damage to bones and tissues,
  • Infections of the brain and spinal cord,
  • Mental health issues,
  • Loss of hearing and sight,
  • Strokes, meningitis, and heart diseases.

These problems may manifest many years after the original, untreated infection.

Test and Treatment

The primary method for diagnosing syphilis is through blood tests. The blood tests specifically identify the infection antibodies produced by the body in response to the infection.

If you notice any symptoms mentioned earlier, you should undergo testing for the infection. Detecting and treating the infection early is crucial. Best to do this before it reaches the latent stage.

If you have syphilis for a long time, you cannot fix the damage it causes. Seeing a doctor right away for diagnosis and treatment is important.

Doctors usually prescribe penicillin injections for primary and secondary syphilis. Crucial for patients to attend all scheduled appointments for these injections. In cases of penicillin allergy, doctors can use an alternative antibiotic, such as doxycycline or ceftriaxone. Skipping medication doses can render the treatment ineffective, potentially progressing the patient into later stages of the disease.

Prevention Of Syphilis in Thailand

  • Avoid having multiple sexual partners and make sure to have your current partner tested for STDs.
  • Better not to use recreational drugs or drink too much alcohol. These substances can lead to risky behaviors. Risky behaviors can result in getting sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Using a condom correctly during sexual intercourse can reduce the chances of getting syphilis.
  • If you are sexually active, it is advisable to have regular check-ups 1-2 times a year.
  • See a healthcare provider if you notice any abnormalities, such as a rash, sore, swelling, or unusual discharge.
  • Please note that cleaning the genital area promptly after sexual activity, both internally and externally, does not prevent the infection.
Symptoms and Stages of syphilis

Thailand’s Government Actions Against Rising Syphilis Cases

The Thai government, led by Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, is acting to address rising syphilis rates. These measures are specifically targeting younger populations.

The government has implemented strong strategies to combat the spread of the infection in the country. The National Communicable Disease Committee reported a significant increase in syphilis infections during a meeting. In 2018, there were 11 cases per 100,000 people, but by 2022, this number had risen to 18.6 cases.

The government will work with private sector and civic organizations to improve access to treatment and education on STIs. Our main goal is to greatly decrease the number of infections to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We are aiming for a target rate of only 1 infection per 100,000 people by 2030.”

The government is being proactive in addressing a public health issue. They are acting to ensure prevention and control are top priorities in national health plans. This shows their commitment to addressing the growing issue effectively.

When to see a doctor

If you have any symptoms or have sex without protection, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for advice.” Remember that while syphilis is dangerous, doctors can effectively treat it with the right medication.

Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor about your sexual history. Helping them provide better care for you will be beneficial. Your healthcare provider can help you assess your risk, take precautions, and make a plan to stay healthy.

Men's Health

Wellmed Clinic Support

If you think you might have syphilis or any sexual health concerns, you can get more information. You can also come to Wellmed Bangkok Clinic for a consultation. Our team can provide quick, safe, painless and confidential testing and treatment. Contact us via Line: @wellmed or give us a call at +66 61 787 4000.