Syphilis is a disease caused by a bacterial infection of the genital region. After initial infection, the bacteria become dormant in the body, and can later reactivate, to cause a more severe form of the infection. Because of this, this infection has different stages.
The cause of syphilis is infection with the bacteria, Treponema pallidum. It is transmitted via sexual contact with an infected person.
The symptoms depend on the stage of infection. However, these stages do not necessarily occur in a particular order, and may sometimes overlap.
Primary syphilis – the only sign of primary syphilis is the appearance of a sore, at the site where the bacteria entered the body. The sore is called a “Chancre,” and it is painless. It first appears 3 weeks after exposure to the bacteria and heals spontaneously within 3 to 6 weeks.
Secondary syphilis – a few weeks after the original chancre has healed, a rash may develop on the body, starting on the trunk and moving towards the extremities. Here are some signs and symptoms associated with this rash are:
- Wart-like sores around the mouth or genital area
- Hair loss
- Muscle ache
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms will disappear within a few weeks but then may recur over the course of a year.
Latent syphilis – This stage comes after the second stage if left untreated. There are no symptoms or signs as the bacteria becomes latent in the body. From this stage, the infection could either progress to the tertiary stage or never recur again.
Tertiary syphilis – late stage of the disease, which involves damage to the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, vessels, liver, bones, and joints.
Diagnosis can be made by history and testing for antibodies against the bacteria in the blood.
Treatment is antibiotics (Penicillin)