The Stages and Symptoms of Syphilis

The first symptoms of syphilis normally begin to appear within 21 days of becoming infected. In can however take up to 90 days to begin to present. If left untreated Syphilis will develop in 4 different stages; primary, secondary, latent and tertiary.

Primary stage syphilis

Primary syphilis starts with the appearance of a sore (a chancre) – sometimes several sores appear at the same time near to where the infection entered the body – in most instances around the genitals, but they can also form around or inside the anus and/or the mouth. They are painless, round in appearance and quite firm.  They normally last for anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks. Regardless of whether or not you receive treatment for syphilis, chancres will disappear, but the infection remains. Anyone physically coming into physical contact with a chancre during a sexual encounter will to become infected.

Secondary stage syphilis

The symptoms of stage 2 Syphilis include a rash, and sometimes sores, developing on the skin. These rashes often appear on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, but can appear anywhere. First signs of the rash and/or sores can materialise when the chancres are healing, or several weeks after they have healed. Another symptom is a sore throat.

These symptoms last for a few weeks after which they usually disappear. However, syphilis is still highly contagious through any sexual physical contact throughout its secondary phase. The disease then goes into what is called its “latent stage”.

Latent syphilis

Latent syphilis describes a condition whereby the infection lies dormant for a number of years – anywhere from 2 to 15 years in total. During this dormancy phase, no symptoms whatsoever are present. This can mislead victims to believe the infection has passed. It will however re-materialise and the third or tertiary stage, (which is also the most dangerous stage) will start. In the early stages of latent syphilis, an infected person can still pass the infection on to others. However, after 1 to 2 years, although the infection stays with the host, it cannot be passed on.

Tertiary stage syphilis

Because most people get treatment earlier in the development phases of syphilis, tertiary syphilis is quite rare here in the UK. However, if tertiary syphilis does manifests itself, it does so somewhere between 10 and 20 years after the original infection was first acquired, and can cause significant damage to many parts of the body, including:

  • Blood vessels
  • Bones
  • The brain
  • The eyes
  • The heart
  • Joints
  • The liver
  • The nervous system

Symptoms of Tertiary syphilis include:

  • Dementia
  • Difficulty controlling and co-ordinated muscle movements.
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Paralysis
  • Progressive blindness

If you would like more information about our sexual health clinic, don’t hesitate to contact us today on 020 7638 4330.

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