Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious health problems without treatment. Infection develops in stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). Each stage can have different signs and symptoms.

  • spreads through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) without a condom with a partner who has the infection
  • pregnant woman with syphiis can give the infection to her unborn baby

Primary Stage:

  • sores at the location where syphilis entered the body: genitals, anus, rectum and lips/mouth
  • sores are usually (but not always) firm, round and painless
  • sores last 3-6 weeks and heal with or without treatment, but that doesn’t mean the syphilis is gone; treatment is still necessary to avoid moving into the secondary stage

Secondary Stage:

  • skin rashes and/or sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus
  • rash can show up when the primary sore is healing or several weeks after the sore has healed, and can be on the palms or the hands and/or the bottoms of the feet
  • rash can look rough, red or reddish-brown
  • rash usually will not itch and may be so faint that you don’t notice it
  • also possible: fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • symptoms from this stage will go away with or without treatment
  • without the right treatment, the infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis

Latent Stage:

  • no visible signs or symptoms
  • without treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in your body for years

Tertiary Stage:

  • most people with untreated syphilis do not develop tertiary syphilis
  • when it does happen, it can affect many different organ systems including the heart and blood vessels, and the brain and nervous system
  • tertiary syphilis is very serious and would occur 10–30 years after your infection began
  • damages your internal organs and can result in death
  • detected by a blood test or from testing fluid from a syphilis sore
  • treated and cured with antibiotics in the early stages
  • repeat infection is possible
  • left untreated, it can cause serious and permanent health problems
Source and more info: CDC – Syphilis
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