Syphilis is the most deadly of all venereal diseases; it is transmitted from one person to another by means of a miscrop-ically small animal, known as a spirochete. In nine-tenths of all cases, it is caught through sexual intercourse, but it may also be transmitted, occasionally, by kissing, drinking from infected cups or glasses, from razor blades, and in other ways. If not actually cured, syphilis lasts a whole life-time, being invariably chronic. Its course has been divided into four stages, the first manifesting itself about two weeks after infection, the second stage in about two months, the third, or tertiary, in two years, while the last, or quartemary stage, may appear twenty or more years after infection. Unlike the other diseases, it is hereditary.
The first sign is the formation of a small ulcer at the point of infection. This may be no larger than a pimple, and cause no concern. If untreated, the spirochetes multiply and spread throughout the body, when (in this secondary stage) the typical syphilitic eruptions appear upon the skin. These are slightly copper-colored, and appear on the arms, legs, in the mouth and throat, or almost any part of the body. Pains and headaches are experienced. It is often only then that the patient seeks treatment. The dangers of infection are great during this secondary stage of the disease.
In the third, or tertiary, stage, the spirochetes withdraw from the skin and attack the internal organs of the body, where they reside until the patient’s death. At this time, the so-called “gumma” appear in or on the body, which resemble tumors, filled with a rubber-like fluid. They may appear in the brain, the bones, the hard and soft palate of the mouth, the bridge of the nose, and in many other places. If in the nose, the bridge sinks in, forming the well-known “saddle-nose”. The walls of the blood vessels are attacked, and the whole nervous system is affected. Blindness, deafness and other terrible consequences often develop during this third stage.
In the fourth, or final stage, softening of the brain occurs, with accompanying paralysis; the mind goes to pieccs, and the patient can no longer think; the spinal cord is also affected, so that the patient cannot walk, but totters, and finally is confined to a wheel-chair. He thus ends his life as a mere wreck instead of the god-like being he is supposed to be and might well have been, had he not contracted syphilis!
From the above, it will be seen that any one who has contracted this disease is liable to ruin his entire life, both physically and mentally. But the story is even yet not complete! The health of unborn children is also involved. Syphilis is hereditary, and the baby may be bom with the taint, which may show itself immediately or later in life. The syphilitic mother may give birth to her baby prematurely, or may have a miscarriage. In a dozen ways, this terrible disease may manifest itself perhaps years after the original infection, and destroy the lives and happiness of those concerned.
If, after sexual intercourse, there is the least doubt in the mind, the advice of your doctor should be sought immediately. No time should be lost, since this gives the germs a chance to multiply and initiate the first stage of syphilis. There are some, it is true, who live in constant fear of contracting this disease, allowing their minds to dwell constantly upon this possibility. This mental condition is abnormal, and is known as “syphili-phobia”. It represents the opposite extreme of those men who are constantly “taking chances”. Both are to be avoided. The constant fear of syphilis is useless and mentally destructive. On the other hand, too great care cannot be exercised in order to avoid contracting this disease.
Every case of syphilis should be reported, and every man and woman applying for a marriage license should be made to undergo blood test, to ascertain whether or not he or she is entirely free of syphilitic taint. All those suffering from the disease, particularly in the secondary stage, should be watched, and all direct contact with them avoided; they should have their own towels, wash-cloths, etc., and be warned against the use of others. If there is any doubt in the mind as to the possibility of infection, a Wasserman test will decide this point. If there were complete cooperation, coupled with immediate and adequate medical treatment, syphilis could be cured in practically all cases, during its early stages. If this were done, and proper precautions taken, this dread disease could be abolished from the face of the earth.