What is Syphilis? Stages, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Syphilis?

 Syphilis is an infection caused by ‘T.pallidum’ bacteria, which is transmitted directly through syphilitic ulcers on the skin and mucous membranes.  It is a sexually transmitted infection (STD) that can become serious if left untreated.

 The infection is also spread through sexual contact with a person infected with syphilitic ulcers (also called painless ulcers).  The infection will not be spread by an infected person touching surfaces such as door handles or tables.

 Under this, ulcers can occur in the vagina, anus, rectum, lips and mouth.  There is a possibility of this disease being spread during oral, anal or vaginal sexual activity.  In very rare cases, it can also spread through kissing.

 The first sign of this infection is a painless ulcer on the genitals, rectum, mouth or skin surface.  Some people do not even pay attention to this blister because it is painless.  Many times these blisters heal on their own, but if left untreated, the bacteria remain in the body.

 This can be cured by early treatment with penicillin.  Syphilis does not come back after treatment, but the disease can recur with more exposure to this bacteria.  Once infected with syphilis, a person cannot be protected from getting re-infected with the disease.

 Women can transmit syphilis to their unborn baby during pregnancy, which can have potentially fatal consequences.

 Syphilis infection can remain dormant for up to 30 years before returning to its third stage.

Stages of Syphilis :

Symptoms of syphilis develop in three stages, described below.

 Stage 1: (Primary Syphilis): Symptoms of syphilis begin with painless sores that appear on the genitals or sometimes in the mouth.  If someone else comes in contact with that wound during sexual contact, he can get infected.  The lesions may last for two to six weeks before they fade.

 Stage 2: (secondary syphilis): Secondary symptoms such as skin rash, sore throat.  These symptoms may go away within a few weeks, after which you may experience a latent stage without any symptoms that can last for years. Syphilis then progresses to the third and most dangerous stage.

 Stage 3: (tertiary syphilis): Up to one-third of people who have untreated syphilis may develop tertiary syphilis.  At this stage it can cause very serious damage to the body.

 You can be most infectious to other people in the primary and secondary stages.  Syphilis in the latent stage cannot be passed to others.  But it can still cause symptoms.

Symptoms of Syphilis:

 1. Primary syphilis


 small blisters

 2. Secondary syphilis

A non-itchy rash that starts on the upper body and spreads throughout the body, including the palms and soles.  The rashes may be rough, red or reddish brown.

  • wart-like ulcers in the mouth, anus, and genitalia,
  • muscle pain
  • Fever
  • sore throat,
  • swollen lymph nodes,
  • sporadic hair fall
  • Headache,
  • weight loss,
  • Tiredness,
  • Untreated secondary syphilis can progress to latent and tertiary stages.

 3. Latent syphilis

 The latent phase may last for several years.  During this time the body will become home to disease without symptoms.

 4. Tertiary syphilis

  • blindness
  • Deafness
  • mental illness
  • memory loss
  • soft tissue and bone damage
  • neurological disorders, such as stroke or meningitis
  • heart disease
  • Neurosyphilis, which is an infection of the brain or spinal cord.


 Primary and secondary syphilis can be treated successfully with a single dose of penicillin.  Which is given through injection in your hip.  If you are allergic to penicillin, you may be prescribed another antibiotic in tablet form. Treatment of later-stage disease requires three penicillin injections.  Which is given at weekly intervals. Side effects of antibiotics Some antibiotics used to treat syphilis can adversely affect contraceptive methods;  Which contain estrogen and progesterone hormones, like the combined pill or contraceptive patch.  If you are using these methods of contraception, tell your doctor or nurse so that they can advise you about additional contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy. Until treatment is completed and your sexual partner is examined and treated.  Until that happens, avoid any kind of sexual activity or physical contact with another person.

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