Venereal disease, name for infectious diseases transmitted mainly or exclusively by sexual contact. Gonorrhea is an acute bacterial disease that is frequently asymptomatic in females, although they may suffer mild cervicitis or urethritis. In males it may be asymptomatic also, but it usually causes a painful urethritis with urethral discharge of pus. Gonorrhea is best treated with penicillin. Syphilis, due to Treponema pallidum, a spirochete, is a disease with 2 stages. A painless genital ulcer, or chancre, develops in the weeks after contact. Secondary syphilis, starting weeks or months after infection, involves fever, malaise, and a characteristic rash, as well as organ disease (hepatitis, meningitis). If the disease is treated with a full course of penicillin in the early stages, its progression is prevented. Tertiary syphilis takes several forms. Gummas—chronic rubbery tumors affecting skin, epithelium, bone, or internal organs—may develop. Tertiary syphilis causes heart disease. Syphilis of the nervous system may cause tabes dorsalis, primary eye disease, chronic meningitis, or paralysis, with mental disturbance, personality change, failure of judgment, and muscular weakness. Penicillin may only partially reverse late syphilis. Other venereal diseases include Reiter's disease (in males only), genital trichomoniasis, thrush, Herpes simplex virus, and “nonspecific urethritis.” Tropical venereal diseases include chancroid, lymphogranuloma venereum, and granuloma inguinale.
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