Syphilis is an infection of the penis, vagina, anus or mouth caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum. This bacterium is passed on via the mucus membranes during unprotected sex, getting into the blood and potentially spreading to other organs.
Syphilis has a maximum of three stages. However, it is possible that an infected person will not experience any symptoms. In the first stage (two to 12 weeks after infection) a red sore will develop at the spot where the bacteria first entered the body. This sore may appear in the vagina or anus, and therefore remain unnoticed. The second stage occurs from three to eight weeks after the primary stage.
- Flu-like symptoms;
- A rash over the entire body;
- Patchy hair loss;
- Infected eyes;
- Greyish-white spots near the genitals.
If untreated, syphilis may progress to the third stage after two years. Infections will begin to damage the internal organs, skin and bones, which may lead to meningitis and paralysis.
It is very important that syphilis is treated as quickly as possible. If you suspect you have syphilis, it is essential that you either test yourself or get tested. Make sure to also notify any current and former sexual partners. In general, syphilis can be treated effectively with antibiotics.