Articles On Health


Syphilis, Genital Herpes, Pubic Lice (crabs)

In our last article on STD, we talked about Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea infections and how they affect fertility in both men and women. Today, we will be discussing about Syphilis, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts and Pubic Lice (crabs) and how they also affect both the male and female fertility and also cause other health challenges.



A spirochetes bacterium, treponema pallidum, is the causative organism for syphilis. Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is usually spread by sexual contact. Syphilis starts as a painless sore that appears mostly on the genitals and mouth. If untreated, syphilis progresses in stages and can lead to heart and brain damage and even death. About 3 weeks, although the range is from 10 to 90 days, after being infected with syphilis, a sore (chancre) that is usually painless often appears on the genitals. This first stage in the course of syphilis is referred to as the primary stage. The chancre usually heals without treatment in 3 to 6 weeks. If syphilis is not treated during the primary stage, it often progresses to later stages. In the secondary stage of syphilis, a skin rash will usually develop about 2 to 8 weeks after the chancre appears. The symptoms usually disappear without treatment within two months. After the rash clears, a person may have a period with no symptoms. This symptom-free period is called the latent (hidden) stage. Even though symptoms disappear, the bacteria that cause syphilis remain in the body and begin to damage the internal organs. The latent period may be as brief as 1 year or range from 5 to 20 years. A person is contagious during the primary and secondary stages and may still be contagious during the early part of the latent stage. During this time, symptoms of the second stage of syphilis may reappear. This is called a relapse and can occur several times. If not detected and treated, syphilis may then progress to the tertiary (late) stage, the most destructive stage of syphilis. During this stage, syphilis may cause serious blood vessel and heart problems, mental disorders, blindness, nerve system problems, and even death. It may begin as early as 1 year after infection or at any time during the infected person’s life. About one-third of untreated people who are infected with syphilis will have the complications of tertiary (late) syphilis. Any organ system (such as the central nervous system) may become involved. Complications of tertiary (late) syphilis include:

  • Gummata, which are large sores inside the body or on the skin
  • Cardiovascular syphilis, which affects the heart and blood vessels
  • Neurosyphilis, which affects the nervous system.

Congenital syphilis refers to syphilis passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy or during labour and delivery. Congenital syphilis can cause complications in newborns and children. Cardiovascular syphilis refers to the infection of the heart and related blood vessels by the syphilis bacteria. This complication usually begins as an inflammation of the arteries. Destruction caused by cardiovascular syphilis can be life-threatening. Complications of cardiovascular syphilis include:

  • Narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart, which may lead to chest pain (angina), heart attack, and possibly death.
  • Damage to heart valves that may lead to heart failure.
  • Aortic aneurysm. If a vessel becomes weak enough, it can rupture and cause death.

Treatment that cures the syphilis infection will stop the progress of cardiovascular syphilis, click here to know more about the treatment. Gummata in syphilis are growths of pink, fleshy tissue that contain syphilis bacteria. They may appear as nodules or ulcers or become masses that are like tumours. Gummata are rare. When they do occur, they range from 1 mm to 1 cm in size. Common sites of gummata include the:

  • Skin, where they cause shallow open sores that heal slowly.
  • Mucous membranes. These gummas may become cancerous.
  • Bones, where they cause destruction of bones and pain that is especially severe at night.
  • Eyes, resulting in visual impairment that may lead to blindness.
  • Respiratory system, where they cause hoarseness, breathing problems, and wheezing.
  • Gastrointestinal system, where they cause stomach pain, inability to eat large meals, belching and weight loss.

Neurosyphilis refers to the infection of the brain and spinal cord by the syphilis bacteria. This can lead to destruction in many areas of the nervous system, causing loss of function of a person’s arms or legs, loss of vision and altered mental abilities. Neurosyphilis can affect many different body systems and may develop over an extended period of time. Symptoms of neurosyphilis usually include:

  • Personality changes, such as confusion and irritability.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Vision problems.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.
  • Memory loss.
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
  • Tremor of the fingers and lips.
  • Mild headaches.
  • Disorderly appearance.

Treponoma pallidum, the causative organism of syphilis is an anaerobe. It is killed at once by drying, and it remains alive in blood obtained for transfusion for only 72 hours. Other methods of transmission besides unprotected sex include blood-transfusion, tattooing, hukka, musical instruments, kissing and by accidental inoculation in technical workers. The intensity of the infection, the manifestation and the progression has a lot to do with the individual’s immunity status. It has been observed that people with poor immunity progress rapidly into the secondary and tertiary stages of the disease, whereas those with stronger immunity remain in the primary stage for longer and often recover completely with the help of a little medication.

Syphilis Symptoms

The manifestations are different at every stage of the disease. 1. Acquired Syphilis: The infection is usually acquired from a sexual partner who is in the infectious stage (which usually lasts up to 2 years) of the disease. In the first or primary stage of syphilis, a painless chancre or punched-out ulcer appears at the site of infection, within a month after exposure. Any fluid oozing out of the chancre is highly contagious. Regional lymphadenopathy occurs. 2. Secondary Syphilis: The secondary stage sets in after nearly two months and is characterized by a generalized rash on the skin and mucous membranes, which is coppery red in appearance and non-itching. The rash is symmetrical, pleomorphic, roseolar, macular, papular and pustular. Papular lesions, on friction become condylomas, as on anal margin, axillae and unsupported breasts. A highly infectious wart-like lesion develops on the genitals and painless punched out ulcers develop in the mouth. Severe symmetrical pain is experienced in all joints without objective swelling and is characterized by night-time increase in pain. These are also accompanied by fever, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes, etc, which usually subside on their own, within a month 3. Tertiary Syphilis: 

In the third or tertiary stage, the disease progresses silently within the internal organs without manifesting in any external signs or symptoms. This stage can actually persist for nearly 30 years. In this stage, nodular lesions called syphilitic gummata develop under the skin, in the mucous membranes or within the internal organs such as the liver, heart, kidneys, bones and other visceral organs. ‘Neurosyphilis’ occurs in nearly 15% of the tertiary cases and is called tabes dorsalis. Lack of muscular coordination, urinary incontinence and degeneration of the reflexes may be present; psychosis known as general paralysis of the insane may follow. Infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or a child born with congenital syphilis – where the child tends to have a high forehead, saddle-shaped nose and peg-shaped teeth.  



Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus Type I (HSV-1) and Type II (HSV-2). The Type I virus is the same one that causes cold sores on the mouth, face and lips, although it can also cause sores on the genitals. The Type II virus, however, most often causes sores on the genitals. Herpes can spread to the genitals from a cold sore if hand washing and other hygiene precautions are not taken. Or it can be spread though oral or genital sexual contact. The virus does not have to be in an active state that is, blisters do not have to be present, for a partner to become infected. The virus can also be passed during the pre-active state, when there is itching or tingling in the area where the sores generally appear. Sometimes, the virus can be passed along before the infected person is even aware that the virus is present. What’s more, saliva also carries the virus. The first episode usually starts within a couple of weeks of exposure, and the initial onset can be pretty bad, including an initial round and then a second round of painful sores, flu like symptoms, fever and swollen glands. Sometimes, the symptoms are mild, however, and appear as little more than insect bites or a rash. Herpes spends most of its life dormant. But, like cold sores, genital herpes recurs, often up to four or five times a year. Always take care to clean shower or bath if it is shared with someone who doesn’t have the virus. Following a shower or bath, make sure to dry the affected area thoroughly, as moisture prolongs symptomatic sores Using a cotton ball, pat bicarbonate of soda on the sores to dry them out and decrease itching. Be careful not to contaminate the bicarbonate of soda so that someone else wont catch the virus from it. For pain relief and to promote healing, soak cotton balls in milk and apply to the area. Fill a plastic bag with crushed ice, wrapping the bag in material the thickness of a sheet. Apply for 10 or 15 minutes and repeat several times a day. Make sure and discard any plastic bags after one use. As a precaution, take care with the amount of time applied, because prolonged exposure to ice can cause tissue damage. Natural foods rich in lysine are known to inhibit attacks of herpes such as amaranth, cheese (non pasteurised), egg whites, organ meats, oily fish, quinoa, whole grainsandorganic live probiotic yoghurt.  



Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16). This is the most common sexually transmitted infections. There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. They can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers. There is no certain way to tell who will develop health problems from HPV and who will not. In most cases, it goes away by itself before it causes any health problems and most people who become infected do not even know they have it. HPV is not the same as herpes or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Both viruses can be passed on during sex, but they have different symptoms and cause different health problems. Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. They can appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner even if the infected partner has no signs of genital warts. If left untreated, they might go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size or number. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that cause cancers.  

PUBIC LICE (crabs)

Pubic lice are small, wingless, parasitic insects found primarily in the pubic or genital area of humans. Pubic lice infestation is found worldwide and occurs in all races, ethnic groups and levels of society. It is not necessarily spread through sexual intercourse as bedding, towels and clothes can also spread pubic lice. The lice produce tiny eggs called nits which are similar in size to dandruff flakes and attach themselves to the hair shaft. Once these nits hatch, they multiply even more quickly. Pubic lice can cause intense itching and scratching, which sometimes leads to a secondary bacterial infection. Although, pubic lice can affect any part of the body; they generally favour the hairs of the genital area. Remove pubic lice by wet-combing using a very fine-toothed comb. The hair is combed in sections from root to tip and it is generally easier to do this when the hair is wet. The comb should be checked for lice after each stroke or the hair can be combed over white tissue paper. Wet-combing should be done every three days for at least two weeks. Click here for treatment of any form of vaginal infection If you have learnt one or two things from this article, kindly share it with others too so that they can benefit from it.   

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