Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is a bacterial infection that can be active at times and inactive at other times. During the active phase, there are symptoms while during the inactive phase there are no symptoms, even though the disease is still present. The disease can be transmitted even during the inactive phase when there are no symptoms.
The bacteria which causes syphilis enters the body through tissues that line the vagina, nose, rectum or throat. The disease can be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. It can also be transmitted from an infected person who has a sore or rash to others. Syphilis can also be passed on through unprotected contact with an active sore like during kissing.
There are four different stages of syphilis-Primary, Secondary, Latent and Tertiary or Late syphilis. Syphilis symptoms vary depending on the stage. The stages overlap sometimes which may cause the symptoms to change the order in which they occur.
The Primary Stage
The first syphilis symptom is a small, painless sore called a canker. This chancre may appear in the genital area, mouth, anus or wherever the bacteria entered the body. Some people develop more than one canker. The canker develops approximately three weeks after exposure and heals on its own in about six weeks. Since the canker is painless or is sometimes hidden, some people do not notice it.
The Secondary Stage
A rash usually develops during this stage. The rash shows up four to ten weeks after infection. It appears on the trunk and eventually covers the entire body including the palms of hands and the soles of feet. The rash is not itchy and there may also be wart-like sores in the mouth or genital area. Muscle aches, fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes may be experienced. The symptoms in this stage may disappear within a few weeks or they may show up over and over for a year.
The Latent Stage
After the rash clears, an infected person may experience a period with no symptoms. This is the latent stage, sometimes called the “hidden stage”. The bacterium is still in the body where it will attack the internal organs. This stage may last for years during which symptoms may never return. The disease may progress to the tertiary or late stage.
The Tertiary or Late Stage
If syphilis is not treated, it will progress to this stage. In this stage, the disease damages the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints. Blindness and mental disorders will be the result. These problems develop many years after the infection of syphilis. At this stage, the disease can also lead to death.
- Practice safe sex by using a condom.
- Stick to one sex partner.
- Do not have sex with someone who has many sex partners.
- See a doctor the moment you notice any unusual discharge, sore or rash especially if its in the groin region.