Syphilis cases rise in Colorado, including 9 eye infections
Nearly nine out of 10 syphilis cases in Colorado are in men who have sex with men (MSM) during the first seven months of 2015, according to Colorado health officials. Almost half of those cases were among people living with HIV.
In fact, during this period, Colorado has reported a 56 percent increase in the number of early syphilis cases (255) when compared to the same period in 2014 (164). For the five-year period of 2010-2014, there was a 31 percent increase in Colorado syphilis cases.
Dr. Daniel Shodell, deputy director of the Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said, “The increase in syphilis is mainly affecting men, and especially men who have sex with men. Although rare, severe complications can develop at any time during syphilis infection. While the rate of syphilis in Colorado remains below the national average, I want to encourage anyone who thinks he or she might have syphilis or be at risk for syphilis to get tested by a health care provider.”
Internet dating apps continue to be a factor in the increases in sexually transmitted infections.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause long-term complications if not adequately treated. Transmission of syphilis occurs during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Pregnant women with the disease can transmit it to their unborn child. Using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners can decrease the risk of acquiring syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections. Sexual partners, especially among men who have sex with men, should talk about risk of syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections.
Initial symptoms include painless sores, which occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus or in the rectum — but can also occur on the lips and in the mouth. Later symptoms include a rash on the trunk and limbs, frequently including the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
Symptoms in the nervous system or eyes can occur during any stage of syphilis infection. Ocular syphilis may lead to visual problems including permanent blindness. In Colorado there have been nine cases of ocular syphilis in 2015, two of which have resulted in blindness.