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.
Secondary syphilis is
characterized by a rash that appears 2 to 12 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.
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