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Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis

The signs and symptoms of syphilis can be tough to track. Like many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the visible indicators are easy to miss. Still, syphilis is not something to be ignored.

It is easily one of the most widespread STIs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the infection rate across the country has skyrocketed.

Today, let’s take a closer look at the signs and symptoms of syphilis. More importantly, let’s review the different stages of these symptoms and how you can keep yourself safe from them.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis

All sexually active people are at risk for contracting syphilis. The infection is most frequently transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex. An infection’s life cycle is broken into several “stages.” However, the signs and symptoms of syphilis are subtle and easy to miss at each of these stages.

During the earliest phase of a syphilis infection, the only indication of its presence might be a painless sore. This sore often resembles a mild case of acne or an ingrown hair. Thanks to these sneaky symptoms, many of us are completely unaware that we are infected. Then we hop into bed with new partners and unknowingly spread the infection even further.

If left untreated, a case of syphilis can eventually develop into serious long-term health problems. These issues may include arthritis, blindness and brain damage. If left long enough, the infection can even become fatal.

Worst of all, it is possible for a pregnant woman to pass a syphilis infection to her unborn child. A baby born with syphilis may suffer from a number of complications. These can range from a simple rash and teeth deformities to deafness or the collapse of the nasal bone.

Just to be safe, we should all get tested often and regularly. A lab-certified blood test, like one of myLAB Box’s at-home STD tests, is the only way to absolutely know your status.

Here are the stages of syphilis:

Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis in the Primary Stage

Within the first three weeks after initial infection, you may notice small painless sores. Typically, this is where the syphilis entered your body.

These sores will often subside within three-to-six weeks. Unfortunately, the infection is still inside you. You’ll need to seek treatment in order to fully eliminate the infection and avoid spreading it to others.

Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis in the Secondary Stage

During the secondary stage, you may experience several new symptoms. You may develop a red rash that could potentially cover your entire body.

Additionally, you may experience a fever, swollen lymph glands and a general sore throat. Sores may appear in your mouth, genitals or anus. Some other secondary stage syphilis symptoms may include hair loss, headaches, weight loss and a feeling of fatigue.

As with the “Primary Stage,” these symptoms will vanish within a few weeks. The infection is still with you, though. This is the syphilis ramping up before the third stage, Latent Syphilis.

Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis in the Third Stage (AKA: “Latent Syphilis”)

This next phase could possibly last several years. During this time, you may not notice any visible symptoms at all. Instead, the infection will develop into “Late Stage” syphilis.

Late Stage Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis

At last, the final stage of syphilis is often referred to as “Tertiary Syphilis.” Approximately 15 to 30 percent of untreated syphilis cases will ever progress this far. It can occur anytime between 10 and 30 years following the initial onset of the infection.

The symptoms of late stage syphilis may include:

  • Loss of muscle control and coordination
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Dementia
  • Death is a possible outcome due to widespread damage to the heart, liver, bones, and joints
Protect Yourself from Syphilis

Now that we’ve seen the life cycle of a syphilis infection, let’s talk about how to protect ourselves. First, syphilis is curable! The treatment you will be prescribed may vary depending on the stage of infection. In fact, a simple prescription of penicillin should destroy the infection. 

As we mentioned above, a routine STI test is the key to total sexual health. Early detection of syphilis is imperative. The longer the infection is given free reign over your body, the more permanent damage may be inflicted. myLAB Box offers home testing kits for the most common sexually transmitted infections and diseases. This includes syphilis.

Recognizing syphilis symptoms is important, but screening is essential. Get tested today!

Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA

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