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The Importance of VDRL Testing in Detecting Syphilis

What is a VDRL test?

A Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test is a screening test for detecting syphilis. The test measures substances like antibodies that are produced in reaction to the presence of the syphilis pathogen. Syphilis is a major sexually transmitted disease and the VDRL test screens for the same. Men and women who have active sexual life should get the VDRL tests if they experience any symptoms. All leading laboratories and healthcare facilities offer the VDRL test alone or as part of the STI panel.

Why is the VDRL test done?

The VDRL test is done to check for the bacteria that cause syphilis. Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria. The bacteria infect people by penetrating the lining of the genitals or the mouth. An infection from the bacteria can happen during oral or penetrative sexual activity. Good hygiene in the oral and genital areas and the use of protection during sex can prevent syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. The infection from this kind of bacteria causes an antibody reaction from antigens attached to the bacteria. The VDRL test measures the antibodies present in the bloodstream of a patient to know if they are infected by syphilis. The VDRL test also works for asymptomatic cases. Accurate results from a VDRL test can lead to early detection of syphilis and its cure.

Symptoms that can lead to VDRL test recommendation

Some early symptoms of syphilis may require someone to take the VDRL test. Early symptoms that might be a cause of syphilis are-

  • One small painless sore- if you have a painless sore on your genital area and no other rashes, it can be a sign of syphilis setting in.
  • Lymph node swelling– The swelling of lymph nodes near the genital area of the oral cavity can be a sign of syphilis.
  • A skin rash– If you have a skin rash that does not itch, then it can be a sign of syphilis.

If you see these signs on your body, it is a possibility that you have a sexually transmitted disease. This disease can be syphilis or any other sexual infection. To detect the stage of syphilis or rule out the disease, you need to take a VDRL test. The VDRL test also happens if someone is pregnant. On the other hand, if you are already getting treated for diseases of the sexual infection spectrum, the VDRL test is a routine panel test.

What happens during a VDRL test?

The VDRL test happens on a blood sample or a Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) sample. The lab professional will use a needle and an injection to take out your blood sample or perform a spinal tap to get the sample. The sample is then stored and analyzed to see if there is an infection. The syphilis test is very easy to perform and comes with very less risk.

Result interpretation of the VDR L test

The results of the VDRL test may come out as positive or negative. The positive test result means that you can have syphilis. If you have a positive result, you might suffer from the secondary or latent stage. A false negative test result is also possible in late-stage syphilis. Therefore, the doctor will recommend a second blood test to confirm the presence of syphilis. The next step after a positive result is an FTA-ABS test. Other sexually transmitted diseases can cause a false positive. For example, you might get a false positive if you are HIV positive. An HIV patient also has a higher risk of syphilis and must have it together. Lyme disease and Malaria can also cause a false positive.

Treatment of Syphilis

After the VDRL test, if the test result comes positive or the disease is confirmed, the patient needs proper treatment. The treatment of syphilis is possible, but it is important to detect it properly. Going to a good reproductive specialist and taking their advice can make all the difference for the patient in such a case. The cost of a VDRL test usually ranges from rupees 100 to 250.

In a sexually transmitted disease panel, the test costs are lower than usual. Choosing a reputed laboratory for the test can help you to a great extent in the detection of syphilis. The VDRL test is not risky and can be done easily under the supervision of professional laboratory staff.

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