Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that progresses in stages. The disease is curable and its progression is preventable, but if untreated, it can cause heart disease, neurological problems and blindness. Syphilis causes genital ulcers, which increase the likelihood of sexual HIV transmission.
A myriad of symptoms can occur during various stages of this disease. Early symptoms can range from:
- a single chancre sore to a rash on the body that does not itch.
- other symptoms are fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, weight loss, hair loss, muscle aches and fatigue.
Syphilis is usually passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Wearing condoms and avoiding having multiple sexual partners can help prevent the spread of syphilis. Other preventative measures are limiting the number of sex partners, practicing sexual abstinence and avoiding sexual contact if you think you are infected.
A single dose of penicillin can cure someone who has had the disease less than a year. Larger doses are needed to cure someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year. For people who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics are available to treat syphilis.