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What Are the Symptoms of Syphilis?

The stages of syphilis, a bacterial infection, each present with a different set of symptoms. The four stages are primary, secondary, tertiary, and latent. In some cases, you can have syphilis but not show symptoms.

Primary Phase

The first symptom of syphilis is a chancre or painless sore. After three to six weeks, the sore disappears. Without treatment, the infection spreads to the secondary phase.

Secondary Phase

If not treated, the infection spreads as a rash to the palms of the hands and feet. Flat warts may appear on the vulva or anywhere on the genitals of all sexes.

Latent Phase

In the latent phase, no symptoms present, but the infection remains present with the potential to infect another via sexual contact.

Tertiary Stage

The tertiary, or late stage, occurs after the symptoms of the second phase fade away. By the tertiary stage, the bacteria can no longer spread to others, but inside the body spreading occurs to the organs. The four most common symptoms of syphilis in the tertiary stage are numbness, dementia, loss or change in eyesight, and uncontrolled muscle movements.

Prevention and Treatment of Syphilis

Condoms are the first line of defense against syphilis bacteria. However, contact with the rash outside of sexual contact spreads the bacteria as well. Treatment for the bacterial infection is antibiotics.

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