Syphilis (pronounced siff-eh-lis) is a bacterial infection that is sexually transmitted. It progresses in distinct stages. The disease is curable and progression is preventable if syphilis is caught early and treated. But if it isn't treated, it can cause serious damage to the cardiovascular system and brain and lead to blindness and nerve problems.
Syphilis is often called "the great imitator," because its signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS): A syndrome -- caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) -- in which certain cells of the immune system are destroyed making it difficult to fight infections and certain cancers.
Amenorrhea: When a woman does not get her monthly period.
Amputation of the penis: (See penectomy.)
Antibiotics: Drugs that kill certain infection-causing germs.
Anti-inflammatory drugs: Drugs that reduce inflammation (pain and swelling) by modifying the body's immune response.
Anorgasmia: The absence of sexual climax (orgasm).
Anus: The opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.
Bacterial vaginosis: The most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. Bacterial vaginosis often causes a vaginal discharge that is thin and milky, and is described as having a "fishy" odor. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a combination of several bacteria.
Balanitis: An inflammation of the head (glans) of the penis
Balanoposthitis: Inflammation of the head and the foreskin of the penis.
Bartholin's glands: The small, mucus-producing glands on either side of the vaginal opening.
Biological therapy: A treatment that uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer. It uses materials made by the body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against disease. Biological treatment is sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.
Biopsy: The removal of a small sample of tissue for testing.
Bisexual: A person who is attracted to members of either gender.
Bladder: The sac that holds urine.
Blood test: A procedure in which a sample of blood is taken and analyzed in a lab for evidence of infection or disease.
Bulbourethral glands (Cowper's glands): Pea-sized structures located on the sides of the urethra just below a man's prostate gland. These glands produce a clear, slippery fluid that empties directly into the urethra. This fluid serves to lubricate the urethra and to neutralize any acidity that may be present due to residual drops of urine in the urethra.