Congenital Syphilis

Definition

Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria. Congenital syphilis is an infection that a baby is born with. In this case, the infection is passed from a mother to her baby. This is a potentially serious condition that requires medical care. If untreated, a baby with congenital syphilis can have problems throughout life. It can also cause a stillbirth or death in early infancy.
Spread of Syphilis During Pregnancy
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Causes

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a specific bacteria. This infection can pass to a baby through an infected mother. The baby may be infected during pregnancy or the birth process.

Risk Factors

A baby has an increased risk of developing congenital syphilis if the mother:
  • Does not receive prenatal care
  • Abuses drugs before or during pregnancy
  • Is involved in prostitution
  • Has unprotected sex

Symptoms

Symptoms of congenital syphilis include:
  • Rash around the mouth, anus, and genitals
  • Poor weight gain
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Fever
  • Deformities of the nose, upper arm, shins
  • Tooth abnormalities
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Irritability

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam may be done. Bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
  • Blood tests of the mother and the baby
  • Tests on the placenta
  • Spinal tap to look for the presence of syphilis in the spinal fluid
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with x-rays. Your child's vision may be tested with an eye exam.

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