What is syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by bacteria known as Treponema pallidum that can be passed on during sex.
How do I catch syphilis?
Syphilis can be passed from one person to another during sex and by direct skin contact with someone who has syphilis sores or rash. It’s also possible for a pregnant woman to pass the infection to her unborn baby.
What are the symptoms of syphilis
Syphilis can develop through three stages:
- primary syphilis
- secondary syphilis
- tertiary syphilis
Many people do not have any symptoms in the early stages. If you do get symptoms, you might notice the following.
One or more sores on the genital area, or in the mouth if you had oral sex. Often the sores are painless
The sores of first stage syphilis are very infectious and may take two to six weeks to heal
If untreated, the second stage usually occurs some weeks later. The symptoms include:
a painless rash that is not normally itchy. It can spread all over the body and is often seen on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet flat, warty-looking growths on the vulva in women and around the anus in both men and women (often mistaken for genital warts) a flu-like illness, tiredness and loss of appetite, with swollen glands (this can last for weeks or months) white patches on the tongue or roof of the mouth patchy hair loss
When syphilis remains untreated it sometimes goes into another phase known as tertiary syphilis after many years. This is when the syphilis starts to cause very serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes and nervous system. At this stage syphilis can be life-threatening.