Don’t ignore that painless genital ulcer

If you are sexually active you should get regular check-ups.

In the age of social media and dating applications, having sex with someone you met online has never been easier. While it may be mutual and casual, an increase in the frequency of sexual activities and number of partners is not without its consequences.

With each partner and each session you engage in, especially without protection, you are exposed to the risk of acquiring sexual transmitted diseases. So, if you are sexually active and hardly use any protection, have you ever noticed the presence of painless ulcer(s) around your genitals?

If you have, you might think that the ulcer is harmless because it doesn’t cause any pain and after a few weeks, you see that the ulcer is gone.

You think that it is not around any more. That’s a fair assumption because the disappearance of the ulcer corroborates the disappearance of what causes it but in actual fact, that is a dangerous assumption because the aforementioned description is a feature of Primary Syphilis.

Syphilis is an infection caused by the bacteria Trepanoma pallidum and the infection can be divided into four stages namely Primary, Secondary, Latent and Tertiary. Progressing from one stage to another occurs over time and each stage has a different presentation.

The stage in which you develop a painless genital ulcer, also known as a chancre, is the primary stage and regardless of whether you are treated or not, the ulcer will heal and disappear in anywhere between two to six weeks.

The formation of the chancre denotes the entry point of the bacteria but it is not always easy to notice as it is painless and depending on the type of sexual intercourse you engage in, chancre deep in the anus or the vagina is simply not noticeable.

Chancre may also occur in the mouth if you engage in fellatio or oral sex. What’s more dangerous is that chancre is highly infectious.

Failing to notice its presence or ignoring it and then engaging in sexual intercourse with a different partner poses risks of you transmitting syphilis to your partner and/or acquiring a new infection thanks to the skin breakage from the painless ulcer.

Just because the chancre isn’t there any more doesn’t mean it has been dealt with adequately. Quite the opposite is true because if you don’t get adequate treatment, the disappearance of the painless lesion simply means that the bacteria has moved to a further place in your body.

It will progress from one stage to another, becoming more and more severe. As of 2015, the incidence of new Syphilis cases per 100,000 population in Malaysia is at 6% (6000 people for every 100,000 population).

In the United States, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the distribution of primary and secondary syphilis cases by sexual behaviour and found that the highest case of Syphilis occurs in men who have sex with men only (52%).

If you are unsure of your status or have experienced the presence of a painless ulcer around your genitals, it is highly recommended you see a doctor and get yourself tested as Syphilis is best treated early.

The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.