What is syphilis?

Syphilis is an STD divided into four stages, primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary, with each stage showing different signs and symptoms. If syphilis is left untreated, it may cause serious health problems and can lead to death in severe cases.

How is syphilis spread?

The main cause of syphilis transmission is from direct contact with syphilis sores, mainly through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Syphilis sores are found in the rectum, at the genitals, and inside/around the mouth.

What does syphilis look like?

There are four stages of syphilis,

  • Primary stage: Syphilis sore will occur in the original area of infection. The area could be around the genitals, mouth, or anus. This sore will usually go away in a few weeks, and there may be no more symptoms that occur after this.
  • Secondary stage: Symptoms during this stage can be mild or unnoticeable, but it can be skin rashes on the palm of the hand or feet, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.
  • Latent stage: No signs or symptoms will occur during this stage.
  • Tertiary stage: The most severe stage that will cause serious damage to the heart, brain, nervous system, and other organs in the body.

How can I reduce my risk of getting syphilis?

Avoid having sex is the only way to completely prevent STDs, but if you’re sexually active, you should consider the using a condom every time you have sex. Being in a committed monogamous relationship is another way to prevent getting STDs because you have a partner that you can rely on.

What do the symptoms of syphilis look like?

Primary stage:

  • The appearance of single or multiple sores at the original area of infection.
  • Sores can be firm, round, and painless. They can easily go unnoticed because it’s not easy to spot.
  • The sores can last for three to six weeks and can disappear on its own, either with or without treatment. However, you must still continue the treatment to stop the infection from progressing to later stages.

Second stage:

  • Skin rashes and/or mucus membrane lesions may appear in the mouth, vagina, or anus.
  • The second stage usually begins with rashes on one or more areas on the body, and may appear during or after the first stage sores are healed.
  • The rash may have a rough texture with red or brown color on the palm of the hands or bottom of the feet. These rashes aren’t always itchy and can be mistaken for other skin problems.
  • Fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, swollen lymph glands are common symptoms in this stage of syphilis. All these symptoms will disappear regardless of whether a person receives the treatment or not, but it’s important to get the treatment as soon as possible before it progresses to a more deadly stage.

Latent stage

  • This stage of syphilis won’t show any symptoms. But syphilis will remain in the body for years and start moving into several organs inside the body.

Tertiary stage

  • The deadly stage of syphilis can affect your brain, heart, blood vessels, and nervous system.
  • This stage will occur after 10-30 years of infection and may result in death or permanent damage to parts of the body.

Neurosyphilis and Ocular syphilis

  • Two special cases where syphilis can spread to the nervous system and the eyes. Neurosyphilis can cause severe headache, paralysis, dementia, or difficulty coordinating muscle movements; Ocular syphilis can cause changes to your vision, and up to blindness.

How can I know that I have syphilis?

Blood tests will be used to diagnose syphilis.

Can syphilis be cured?

Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics. But the treatment may not undo the damage done by syphilis.

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