Syphilis - Symptoms
develops in four stages, each with a different set of symptoms.
During the primary stage of
syphilis, 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
- 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). The sores are
usually painless and are not easily seen.
- Swelling of the
lymph nodes may occur near the area of the
- A chancre may also occur in an area of the body other than
- The chancre usually lasts for 3 to 6 weeks, heals without treatment,
and may leave a thin scar. But even though the chancre has healed, syphilis is still present and a person can still pass the infection to others.1
Secondary syphilis is
characterized by a rash that appears 2 to 8 weeks after the chancre
develops and sometimes before it heals. Other symptoms may also occur,
which means that the infection has spread throughout the body. A person is
highly contagious during the secondary stage.
A rash often
develops over the body and commonly includes the palms of the hands and the
soles of the feet.
- The rash usually consists of reddish brown,
small, solid, flat or raised skin sores that are less than
2 cm (0.8 in.) across. But the
rash may look like other more common skin problems.
- Small, open
sores may be present on
mucous membranes. The sores may contain pus. Or moist
sores that look like warts (called condyloma lata) may be present.
- In dark-skinned people, the sores may be a lighter color than the
The skin rash usually heals within 2 months. on its
own without scarring. After healing, skin discoloration may occur. But even though the skin rash has healed, syphilis is still present and a person can still pass the infection to others.1
When syphilis has
spread throughout the body, the person may have:
- A fever of usually less than
- A vague feeling of weakness or discomfort throughout
- Patchy hair loss, especially in
the eyebrows, eyelashes, and scalp hair.
- Swelling of the lymph
Nervous system symptoms of
secondary syphilis, which can include neck stiffness, headaches, irritability,
paralysis, unequal reflexes, and irregular pupils.