Friendly Deadly Sexually Transmitted Infection – Herpes and Syphilis

Herpes (caused by the Herpes Simplex virus HSV) are of two types: HSV-1 also called Oral Herpes and results in cold sores on the mouth and HSV-2 that causes Genital Herpes.
Syphilis is a bacteria infection caused by treponema pallidum
These two infection are similar in the fact that they both cause Genital sores. The first sign of Syphilis is a small, painless sore that appears on the sexual organs, rectum, or inside the mouth. This sore is called a chancre. Chancre forms on the spot through which the bacteria enters the body. And infection occurs when this chancre comes in contact with your sexual organs

As early as 20AD, the Roman Emperor Tiberius banned public kissing’s this was because of the high rate of infection of cold sores and fever. Herpes is a very infective STI, in fact 1 out of every 6 sexually active persons is infected with Herpes. In the USA, about 1 out of 2 people aged 14-49 is infected with Herpes. This is typical caused by Oral Herpes(HSV 1).This is so because of the ease of infection and also because it’s incurable; Yes, if you are diagnosed with Herpes you will have it for life. The best and effective way to avoid getting infected is abstinence or having one sex partner who is not infected.

On the other hand,though Syphilis is not much less of a problem than Herpes at least it’s not as common as Herpes. In the US, about 88,000 people get infected with Syphilis every year. It is also more common among Men.
The use of condoms during sex reduces the risk of contacting both Herpes and Syphilis, but doesn’t guarantee anything because you can still contact either through skin to skin contact during Sex.


Untreated Syphilis can cause major damage in important organs like Kidney and Brains. This occurs when the Syphilis infection gets to the last stage of it’s development called Tertiary Stage.
Mothers infected with syphilis are at risk of having miscarriages, still births, or premature births. A mother with syphilis will probably pass the disease on to her fetus. This is known as congenital syphilis and the baby can have symptoms like deformities,developmental delays, jaundice, infectious sores.

Herpes complications include risk of having other sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, Bladder problems, Meningitis, Rectal inflammation (proctitis).

Syphilis has different symptoms depending on the stage of the infection. There are 4 different stages.

Primary( most infectious stage) – It is the stage at which the sore manifests. It take about 10-90 days after contracting the bacteria for the chancre(sore) to appear.

Secondary – other symptoms develop at this stage examples: Headaches, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, weight loss, hair loss, aching joints. These usually go within go on their own with or without treatment.

Latent /Hidden – The symptoms are all gone after the primary and secondary stages but the bacteria is still in the body, and remains for years before progressing to Tertiary stage.

Tertiary – This is the end stage and leads to major organ damage and death.
It is possible for Herpes to present without symptoms. Some of the recognizable symptoms of Herpes include:

  • Chancres on your genitals,
  • Cold sores
  • Pain during urination,
  • Itching.

You may also experience symptoms that are similar to that of the Flu. These symptoms can include:fever, headache, tiredness, lack of appetite
Herpes can spread to the eyes and cause a condition called Herpes Keratitis.

Blood tests are employed to test for Syphilis and Herpes.


Syphilis is a bacteria infection, therefore it is treated using Antibiotics like Ampiclox, Azithromycin,Doxycycline, Ceftriaxone.
Note: (Remember, A doctor or Pharmacist is better fitted to make the best choice of medication for you,please do not self medicate as Antibiotics have devastating side effects when misused) .

Herpes is incurable, but the viral load can be reduced using antivirals like Acyclovir, Famciclovir,Valacyclovir. These medications can help people infected with the virus reduce the risk of transmitting it to others. It also can help to lower the intensity and frequency of outbreaks.


Obstetrics and gynecologist

Courtsey: Iloabuchi Francis C.

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