Syphilis Symptoms and ConsequencesSyphilis is a highly infectious bacterial disease that is most commonly spread through sexual contact. The syphilis bacteria, Treponoma Pallidum, attaches to the cells in your body causing the destruction of tissues and organs. Syphilis symptoms generally occur in three stages and, if left untreated, the disease can linger for decades. Eventually, syphilis can cause blindness, loss of motor control skills, dementia, and death.
What are the Symptoms of Syphilis?
Syphilis symptoms generally appear in a series of stages. These stages are: primary syphilis, secondary syphilis, latent syphilis, and tertiary syphilis. It is important to be aware of the symptoms common to each stage. Syphilis symptoms often go unnoticed or ignored because they tend to disappear by themselves. Syphilis symptoms can also be easily confused with other ailments leading to misdiagnosis.
If you are pregnant and infected with syphilis, it is especially important to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment. While the infection is easily cured, it can have devastating consequences in your child if left untreated.
Primary syphilis begins after infection. Usually, it takes between two and six weeks for symptoms to manifest. During this stage, a painless sore called a chancre will appear somewhere on your body, generally at the point of infection. Typically, these chancres will grow on your genitals, anus, lips, or tongue, but they can appear on other body parts too. Sometimes the chancres grow inside the genitals, making the infection hard to diagnose. The chancres will disappear within a few weeks of their appearance. If left untreated, your syphilis may become chronic.
Secondary syphilis begins 3 to 6 weeks after the disappearance of your chancres. The syphilis rash will appear. This is a brown skin rash that will appear on the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. This rash can spread to cover your whole body or it may be limited to certain areas. This rash can be contagious, so it is important to avoid skin-to-skin contact with an uninfected person. You will experience other mild symptoms, including fever, sore throat, swollen glands, and hair loss. These syphilis symptoms can also disappear without treatment. They may reoccur for up two years before you progress to the next stage of the disease.
Some people infected with syphilis will experience a latent stage. During this stage, all symptoms will disappear. Some people remain in the latent stage for many years. However, because you are still infectious, it is important to seek treatment even if your symptoms have stopped.
80% of those with secondary syphilis will also experience tertiary syphilis. This stage can last for decades and is more difficult to treat. Symptoms become more dangerous to your body and can include damage to the joints, weakening of the bones, gradual blindness, heart disease, and liver disease. Treatment is still an option, even at this stage.
If left untreated, the syphilis bacteria may cause serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes, nervous system, bones and joints. It can result in dementia, lack of control over movements, partial or complete blindness, brain aneurysm, and death. Another possible consequence of contracting syphilis is an increased risk of HIV infection. Because of the open sores associated with the disease, it is easier for you to become infected with the HIV virus. If you are infected with syphilis bacteria, you are 3 to 5 times more likely to catch HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.