Sweating is the body’s reaction to an increase in temperature and a means by which it tries to lose heat. The sweat glands are controlled by the central nervous system, and consequently someone may also sweat as a result of psychological tension – often known as a cold sweat. Excessive sweating occurs when the rate of perspiration is higher than normal. It is difficult to define the borderline because there is a good deal of variation over what may be regarded as normal. A person is usually regarded as sweating excessively if problems arise as a result. Syphilis (lues, hard chancre) Venereal disease caused by the bacterium The disease is very contagious and transmitted by sexual intercourse or oral contact with infected genitalia. It is the 15- to 30-year-old age group that is most at risk of infection. Infection takes place at the mucous membrane of the genitals, and sometimes also via damaged parts of the skin. The mucous membrane of the throat can also become infected. An average of 3 to 6 weeks after contact with the bacterium, an ulcer, which is not painful but has a hard edge (hard chancre), is formed at the bacterium’s point of entry. This ulcer can be on the penis, lips of the vulva, anus, lips of the mouth or in the throat. This is first stage syphilis and at this time the patient is extremely contagious. In a few cases the symptoms may pass without being noticed. The ulcer heals without treatment, but the bacterium remains in the bloodstream and quickly passes hard, painless swellings from the lymph glands into the groin. The second stage begins some 6 to 8 weeks after the formation of the ulcer. The symptoms consist of slight fever, headache, loss of appetite, tufts of hair falling out, a red rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, sore throat and sore bones. Sometimes ulcers appear in other parts of the body. These are highly contagious. This stage lasts for a year or longer, and after this the latent stage begins. There are few symptoms at this time, other than occasional inflamed skin lesions. Years later (sometimes 10 to 20 years after infection), the third stage can arise. Skin lesions are characteristic at this point. Thick, resilient bumps (gummata), suppurating in the middle, are visible in the skin and internal organs. The bones and joints are also affected, as are the heart and vascular system. In 25 per cent of untreated syphilis cases, neurosyphilis arises, with the brain and the spinal cord being affected. Nerve reflexes become disturbed, and a specific form of insanity. This is the fourth stage of syphilis. Patients are no longer contagious in this final stage. Sometimes there are symptoms and sometimes not. Complications that endanger the patient’s life occur in one-third of untreated patients. A patient can recover from syphilis spontaneously. A patient suffering from syphilis can appear to be very healthy. It is for this reason that pregnant women, for example, are checked for the disease in the first few months of pregnancy, in order to prevent the baby in the womb from being infected by the bacterium. If syphilis is treated before the 4th to 5th month of pregnancy, the child is safe. The presence of syphilis is proved by examining the tissue of ulcers, mucous membranes or lymph glands in various blood tests. Treatment is fairly simple, with antibiotics being used, mostly in the form of penicillin injections. Any sexual partners must of course also be examined and possibly treated. Checks subsequent to treatment must sometimes be repeated over a long period, especially when the disease is not discovered until a late stage. The lesions which have arisen in internal organs and the nervous system prior to treatment cannot be reversed.