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Swollen Lymph Nodes: Is It Syphilis?

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Understanding Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are associated with a number of conditions, including mono, colds, HIV, and syphilis. But most people don't know that swollen lymph nodes can be a syphilis symptom or think to have STD testing, including syphilis testing, performed.

Syphilis Symptoms: Swollen Lymph Nodes

Syphilis is an STD that produces very different symptoms as it stays in the body. In most cases, swollen lymph nodes don’t show up until the secondary stage of syphilis. Here’s a look at common symptoms from the four stages of syphilis:
  • Primary stage: First, syphilis usually causes a small sore called a chancre (usually within days or weeks of exposure). Though it eventually disappears on its own, the sore is the first syphilis symptom that means the infection is in a person’s body. At this stage, syphilis testing would yield positive results.
  • Secondary stage: Between 4 and 10 weeks after contracting syphilis, a person may have secondary symptoms, which include swollen lymph nodes, skin rashes, lesions, sore throat, hair loss, weight loss, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches.
  • Latent stage: At this point, symptoms like swollen lymph nodes disappear, though syphilis remains in the body and can do permanent damage.
  • Tertiary stage: Years after infection, syphilis can damage internal organs (including the brain) and cause serious medical complications.
Early STD testing and treatment—as soon as a chancre or swollen lymph nodes show up—can prevent syphilis from progressing into its later stages.

Should I Get Syphilis Testing for My Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Generally speaking, swollen lymph nodes are a signal that the body is fighting off an invading virus or infection. It’s a good idea to seek STD testing for swollen lymph nodes if:
  • You have multiple sex partners.
  • You have unprotected sex.
  • You haven’t had STD testing done in more than a year.
  • Your partner has multiple partners.
In other words, whether or not a person’s swollen lymph nodes are an STD symptom depends on whether or not that person might have an STD. And technically everyone who is sexually active falls into that category.
If you STD test is negative, consult a doctor about other causes of these symptoms.

Treating STD Sypmtoms

There is good news about syphilis: This STD can be cured when diagnosed early. A shot of penicillin, administered by a doctor, will eliminate syphilis from the body.
Other STDs that cause swollen lymph nodes, such as HIV or even genital herpes, require different treatment. HIV can be managed with prescription medication, which when diagnosed early, treatment can help prevent this virus from progressing to AIDS. Genital herpes outbreaks can be suppressed with antiviral medication.

Written and researched by Abby Morgan

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