Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent and late syphilis.
You can get syphilis by direct contact with syphilis sore during anal, vaginal or oral sex. Sores can be found on the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum or on the lips and in the mouth.
Syphilis has been called "the great imitator" because of so many possible symptoms, many of which look like symptoms of other diseases. The painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, sipper cut or other seemingly harmless bump. The non-itchy body rash that develops during the second stage of syphilis can show up on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body or just a few places. You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all.
The three stages of Syphilis
During the first stage of syphilis, you may notice a single sore, but there may be multiple sores. The sore is the location where syphilis entered your body. The sore is usually, firm, round and painless, it can go easily unnoticed. The sore lasts 3-6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not you have recieved treatment. Even though the sore is gone, you must still receive treatment so your infection doesn't move to the secondary stage.
During the secondary stage, you may have skin rashes and/or sores in your mouth, vagina or anus. This stage usually starts with a rash on one or more areas of your body. The rash can show up when your primary sore is healing or several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash can look like rough, red or reddish brown spots on the palms of your hands and/or the bottom of your feet. The rash usually won't itch and it is sometimes so faint that you won't notice it. Other symptoms may include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue. The symptoms from this stage will go away whether or not you receive treatment. Without the right treatment, your infection will move to the latent and possible late stages of syphilis.
Latent and Late Stage:
The latent stage of syphilis begins when all of the symptoms you had earlier disappear. If you do not receive treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in your body for years without any signs or symptoms. Most people with untreated syphilis do not develop late stage syphilis. However, when it does happen it is very serious and would occur 10-30 years after your infection began. Symptoms of late stage syphilis include difficulty coordinating your muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, blindness, and dementia. In late stage syphilis, the disease damages your internal organs and can result in death.
A syphilis infection is called and "early" case if a patient has been infected for a year or less, such as during the primary or secondary stages of syphilis. people who have "early" syphilis infections can more easily spread the infection to their sex partners. The majority of early syphilis cases are currently found amoung men who have sex with men, but women and unborn children are also at risk of infection.
Blood tests can be used to test for syphilis.
Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already done.
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