Syphilis

  • Syphilis is a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. The disease starts as a painless sore, commonly found on your mouth, rectum or genitalia. It spreads from person to person via skin or mucous membrane contact with these sores.
  • The bacteria can lie dormant for decades at a stretch after initial infection before becoming active. Early syphilis can be cured with a single injection of penicillin and without treatment syphilis can severely damage your heart, brain or other organs, and can be life-threatening.
  • Syphilis develops in stages and it is important to know what symptoms can one expect at which stage.
  • Primary Syphilis : The first sign of syphilis you will notice is a small sore, called a chancre (SHANG- kur). The sore appears at the spot where the bacteria entered your body. While most people infected with syphilis develop only one chancre, some people develop several of them. These may go unnoticed because they are usually painless and get healed in six weeks.
  • Secondary Syphilis : Within a few weeks of the original chancre healing, you may experience a rash that begins on your trunk but eventually covers your entire body — even the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. This rash is usually not itchy and may be accompanied by wart-like sores in the mouth or genital area. Some people also experience muscle aches, fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. These signs and symptoms may disappear within a few weeks or repeatedly come and go for as long as a year.
  • Latent Syphilis : If you aren’t treated for syphilis, the disease moves from the secondary to the latent (hidden) stage, when you have no symptoms. The latent stage can last for years. Signs and symptoms may never return, or the disease may progress to the tertiary (third) stage.
  • Tertiary (Late) Syphilis : About 15 to 30 percent of people infected with syphilis who don’t get treatment will develop complications known as tertiary (late) syphilis. In the late stages, the disease may damage your brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints. These problems may occur many years after the original, untreated infection.
  • Congenital Syphilis : Babies born to women who have syphilis can become infected through the placenta or during birth. Most newborns with congenital syphilis have no symptoms, although some experience a rash on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. Later symptoms may include deafness, teeth deformities and saddle nose — where the bridge of the nose collapses