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  • Syphilis is caused by bacteria named Treponema Pallidum

  • Syphilis can spread through cuts on the skin or through the sexual route

  • Syphilis during pregnancy can also be transmitted to the foetus. This is known as congenital syphilis. It may lead to still born baby


Syphilis and the microbe causing it - treponema pallidum

Stages of Syphilis

Primary Stage:

  • The bacteria multiplies in the body of the infected individual and a structure known as a chancre develops

  • A chancre is a painless and bulging swelling on the genital area of the infected individual 

  • Note that the primary chancre will be absent in cases of infection through open wounds 

  • The bacteria is multiplying in this stage and does not show any other symptoms

  • The chancre will disappear after 4-6 weeks

Secondary Stage:

  • The bacteria now spreads through the lymphatic system to other parts of the body

  • Rashes begin to appear on the face and the palm and the lymph nodes start to swell up

  • This occurs due to the immune reaction to the growth of the bacteria

  • The maximum symptoms of syphilis present themselves in this stage of the infection

  • The symptoms usually resolve within 2 to 6 months and people with a healthy immune system usually recover after this stage

Latent Stage:

  • This is the stage where the bacteria continues to multiply in some individuals and spreads to the nervous system and the eye

  • It usually occurs in people with a severely weak immune system and in children 

  • This is known as the latent stage of syphilis because the symptoms do not appear during this stage while the bacteria continues to grow

Tertiary Stage:

  • The tertiary stage of syphilis is the presentation of neurosyphilis as the bacteria spreads to the nervous system

  • The bacteria also spreads to other organs like the heart 

  • This stage presents about 10-30 years after the infection occurs

Syphilis symptoms, treatment and prevention

Spread of Syphilis

Syphilis spreads through the following routes:

  • Unprotected vaginal or anal sex 

  • Unprotected oral sex

  • Through sores or cuts in the mouth, rectum or lips of the infected individual

  • Infected mother to unborn baby through placenta

Symptoms of Syphilis

Syphilis symptoms varies according to the stage you are in:

Symptoms of syphilis across primary, secondary, tertiary and congenital stage

Complications of Syphilis

If not treated on time, following complications can occur:

  • Nervous system issues might show up like meningitis, paralysis, loss of sight, loss of hearing and brain damage

  • It can lead to permanent damage to heart

  • Syphilis also increases your chances of contracting HIV

Prevention of Syphilis

  • Use a condom during oral, vaginal or anal sex

  • Do not share sex toys and wash them properly before use

  • Wait until two weeks after the treatment to completely avoid chances of spread

Treatment of Syphilis

  • Penicillin is the preferred drug which is quite effective in this case. A shot of penicillin is given on the hip and three shots in weekly intervals if the disease has been present since long

  • The sexual partner/s should be traced and tested for the disease

  • All pregnant women should also be tested during pregnancy

  • If not treated on time, Syphilis can cause permanent damage to heart and the brain

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