Syphilis Symptoms - Sore, Body Rash and Internal Organs Damage

Syphilis Symptoms - Sore, Body Rash and Internal Organs Damage

Syphilis is caused by the Treponema pallidum, which is a disease that is infected by having sex with a patient. Syphilis symptoms include: chancre, syphilis granules, genital lymphatic swelling, pain, or rash. 

There are 4 stages of syphilis with different symptoms – primary, secondary, latent and tertiary.

Syphilis symptoms - Primary stage (10-90 days)

  • The appearance of one (or sometimes, multiple) round, painless syphilitic sore(s) (known as chancre) at the location where the bacteria entered the body, which could be the penis, vagina, anus or mouth.
  • The chancre can persist up to 3-6 weeks and heal even if you received no treatment.
  • Without treatment, the disease will progress to the secondary stage.

Syphilis symptoms - Secondary stage

  • The development of fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and genitals, sore throat, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, tiredness, and skin rash characteristically affecting the palms of hands and soles of feet which is usually not itchy.
  • The development of a raised, white/grey lesion (condyloma lata) in warm and moist body parts such as the genitals, armpits and mouth.
  • These symptoms will eventually disappear even if you received no treatment.
  • Without treatment, the disease will progress to the latent stage.

Syphilis - Latent stage

  • During this “hidden” stage, untreated individuals remain infected for years despite the lack of visible signs or symptoms.
  • Without treatment, about 15-30% of patients with syphilis will develop tertiary syphilis.

Syphilis symptoms - Tertiary stage

  • Tertiary syphilis is a serious, and sometimes life-threatening condition that could occur 30 years after your initial untreated infection.
  • It usually involves damage to multiple organs, including the brain, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, joints and the nervous system.

Syphilis test

If you suspect or discover any of the above symptoms of syphilis, get a syphilis test as soon as possible for treatment.


During any stages of syphilis infection, the untreated infection can spread and damage the brain and eyes resulting in neurosyphilis and ocular syphilis, which the symptoms include: Headache, Sudden change in behavior and mental status, Meningitis, Problem with muscle movement and co-ordination, Numbness or paralysis, Hearing problems, Visual problems, including blindness*.

* REF:

Congenital syphilis

Syphilis can be transmitted from the infected mother to the baby during pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in congenital syphilis. Many babies born to mothers with untreated syphilis do not exhibit obvious symptoms of infection, but if left untreated, it could cause irreversible damage to the baby later on in life, including:

  • Premature delivery, Low birthweight, Stillbirth, Skin rash
  • Infection of the baby’s eyes, ears, bones, joints, and the nervous system, which could result in cataracts, deafness, seizures, or even death**.

Syphilis Treatment

Syphilis can be controlled as long as you take antibiotics and complete the full course of syphilis in stage 1 or 2. You should have a blood test after treatment to ensure recovery. You and your sexual partner should avoid sexual contact and wait until 2 weeks after completing the course of treatment before returning to sex. The course of antibiotics for tertiary syphilis may be longer. Whether your sexual partner needs treatment depends on the exposure and the period of infection, please discuss this with your doctor.

** REF: Congenital syphilis. Cooper and Sanchez, 2018.



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