Yaws – Causes, Complications, Symptoms, And Treatment
What is yaws?
Yaws is a chronic (long-term) bacterial infection that mainly affects the skin, bones, and joints. This infection is caused by spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue. The disease begins with a round, hard swelling of the skin. Yaws mainly affects children in rural, warm, tropical areas, such as Africa, Western Pacific islands, and Southeast Asia.
What causes yaws?
Yaws is an infection caused by Treponema pallidum pertenue bacteria. It is closely related to the bacterium that causes syphilis, but this form of the bacterium is not sexually transmitted. Yaws is transmitted by direct contact with the skin sores of infected people.
What are the possible complications of yaws?
Yaws may damage the skin and bones. It can affect a person’s appearance and ability to move. It can also cause deformities of the legs, nose, palate, and upper jaw.
What are the symptoms of yaws?
About 2 to 4 weeks after infection, the person develops a sore called a “mother yaw” where bacteria entered the skin. The sore may be tan or reddish and looks like a raspberry. It is most often painless but does cause itching.
The sores may last for months. More sores may appear shortly before or after the mother yaw heals. Scratching the sore can spread the bacteria from the mother yaw to uninfected skin. Eventually, the skin sores heal. In the advanced stage, sores on the skin and bones can lead to severe disfigurement and disability.
The following other symptoms may also appear:
- Bone pain
- Scarring of the skin
- Swelling of the bones and fingers
How is yaws diagnosed?
The doctor performs a physical exam with special attention to the skin. A sample from a skin sore is examined under a special type of microscope (darkfield examination).
There is no specific blood test for yaws. However, the blood test for syphilis is often positive in people with yaws because the bacteria that cause these 2 conditions are closely related.
How is yaws treated?
If treated in its early stages, yaws can be cured. Skin lesions may take several months to heal.
By its advanced stage, yaws may have already caused damage to the skin and bones. It may not be fully reversible, even with treatment.
Treatment involves a single dose of penicillin, or 3 weekly doses for later stage disease. It is rare for the disease to return.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.