1 What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection which spreads by sexual contact. Typically starting as, a painless sore on genitals, rectum or mouth. Syphilis spreads from person to person via skin or mucous membrane contact via these sores.

After initial infection these bacteria can be in dormant state for years before becoming active again. Early syphilis can be cured with injection of penicillin. Without proper medical help syphilis can cause severe damage to brain, heart and other organs.

Syphilis rates in United States has been decreasing in women but increasing in men who have sex with men. Syphilis sores can be infected by HIV virus and cause AIDS.

2 Symptoms

Syphilis develops in stages and symptoms vary in each stage.


Stages may overlap and symptoms don’t always occur in same order:

  • Primary syphilis- the first sign of syphilis is a small sore. Called a chancre the sore appears at a spot where bacteria entered body. The chancre usually develops after three weeks after exposure and is usually painless.
  • Secondary syphilis- with in few weeks after healing of chancre. Rash appears on the trunk but covers entire body. This rash is accompanied by wart like sores in mouth. Some people also experience muscle weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and sore throat.
  • Latent syphilis- in this stage there are no symptoms of syphilis. This can last for years. Tertiary stage- about 15 – 30 percent of patients infected with syphilis due to lack of awareness and negligence reach this stage. Disease may damage brain in this stage. Nerves, eyes, heart and blood vessels are damaged.
  • Congenital syphilis- babies born to women who was infected with syphilis become infected though placenta before birth. Most newborns have no symptoms except rash on the hands and soles of their feet.

3 Causes

Syphilis is caused by bacterium called Treponema pallidum. The most common route of transmission is from person to person while sexual activity. This bacterium enters into the body though any minor cuts or aberrations in the skin or mucous membranes.

Less commonly syphilis may spread by close contact such as kissing or from infected mother to her baby. Syphilis can’t spread by using same toilet, bathtub, clothing, doorknobs and swimming pools.

4 Making a diagnosis

Syphilis can be diagnosed by testing samples of:

  • Blood- blood tests can confirm the presence of bacteria and type of immune response elucidated by human body.
  • Fluid from sores- scrape of cells from a sore is sent for analysis. The scraping can reveal bacteria.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid- if nervous system complications are suspected. Doctor may suggest collecting sample of cerebrospinal fluid through a procedure called lumbar puncture.

5 Treatment

When diagnosed with syphilis treatment in early stages will cure the condition faster. Preferred treatment in all stages is penicillin, an antibiotic that can kill Treponema pallidum.

Patients who are allergic to penicillin will be prescribes other antibiotic. A single infection of penicillin can stop the disease from progressing.

Additional doses might be required for person who is infected more than a year. Penicillin is the only recommended drug to treat syphilis in pregnant woman.

Jarisch-herxheimer reaction shows the following symptoms:

  • fever,
  • chills,
  • pain,
  • headache.

Doctor will recommend to have periodic blood tests and exams to make sure the treatment is effective. Avoid sexual contact until treatment is completed. Be tested for HIV virus.

6 Prevention

Prevention of syphilis includes:

  • Abstain or be monogamous- the only certain way to avoid syphilis is to forgo having sex. The next best option is to have mutual monogamous sex with one partner who is uninfected.
  • Use latex condom- condoms can reduce the risk of transmitting syphilis.
  • Avoid recreational drugs- excessive use of alcohol or other drugs can cloud judgement and lead to Insafe sexual conditions.
  • Screening test must be done to detect Treponema pallidum in pregnant woman.

7 Alternative and homeopathic remedies

There is no concrete proof that says that there are home remedies to cure syphilis. but some of the following plants with natural immune enhancing properties can be used to improve condition of patient in syphilis.

Some of the herbs include:

  • green tea,
  • wild marjoram,
  • rosemary,
  • fennel,
  • cats claw.

None of these herbs can replace modern medicine and are not recommended over the traditional therapy of syphilis.

8 Lifestyle and coping

Some of the lifestyle changes are required to be followed include:

  • Avoiding sexual contact till the treatment ends.
  • Treatment must be continued till the end.
  • Knowing little about syphilis will help understand situation.

9 Risks and complications

There are several risks and complications associated with syphilis.

The following are the risk factors:

  • engage in unprotected sex,
  • having sex with multiple partners,
  • men having sex with men,
  • infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

Without treatment syphilis can lead to life threatening situations some of the complications of syphilis are:

  • Small bumps or tumors- these are called gummas, they develop on skin, bones, liver or any other organ in late stage of syphilis.
  • Neurological problems- a number of problems in nervous system are caused in syphilis they include: stroke, meningitis, deafness, visual problems and Dementia.
  • Cardiovascular problems- they include: aneurysms and inflammation of aorta and other blood vessels.
  • HIV infection- adults with sexually transmitted syphilis of genital ulcers have higher chance of acquiring HIV virus and AIDS syndrome.

10 What does syphilis look like?