Gummata are growths of pink, fleshy tissue that contain syphilis bacteria. They may appear as nodules or ulcers or become masses that are like tumors. Gummata are rare. When they do occur, they range from 1 mm to 1 cm in size. Common sites of gummata include the:Skin, where they cause shallow open sores that heal slowly.Mucous membranes. These gummas may become cancerous.Bones, where they cause destruction of bones and pain that is especially severe at night.Eyes, resulting in visual impairment that may lead to blindness.Respiratory system, where they cause hoarseness, breathing problems, and wheezing.Gastrointestinal system, where they cause stomach pain, inability to eat large meals, belching, and weight loss.Antibiotic treatment cures the syphilis infection and stops the development of gummata. But the scar tissue that forms after successful treatment will probably not go away.
The first symptom of syphilis is a sore called a chancre (say shanker) that is usually painless. The sore begins at the site of infection as a small, solid, raised skin sore less than 1 cm (0.4 in.) across. It develops into a red, usually painless open sore with a scooped-out appearance. The sore usually does not bleed.Two or more chancres may develop at the same time, usually in the genital area, but sometimes on the hands, mouth, or other body surfaces.Chancres contain millions of syphilis bacteria and are highly contagious.
Syphilis is described in terms of its four stages: primary, secondary, latent (hidden), and tertiary (late).Primary stageDuring the primary stage, a sore (chancre) that is usually painless develops at the site where the bacteria entered the body. This commonly occurs within 3 weeks of exposure but can range from 10 to 90 days. A person is highly contagious during the primary stage.In men, a chancre often appears in the genital area, usually (but not always) on the penis. These sores are often painless.In women, chancres can develop on the outer genitals or on the inner part of the vagina. A chancre may go unnoticed if it occurs inside the vagina or at the opening to the uterus (cervix), because the sores are usually painless and are not easily visible.Swelling of the lymph nodes may occur near the area of the chancre.A chancre may also occur in an area of the body other than the genitals. The chancre lasts for 3 to 6 weeks, heals without treatment, and may leave a thin scar. But