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Symptoms and Diagnosis


Dr. Mayzik
On average, the first symptoms of syphilis appear 21 days after infection, but they can present anytime between 10 and 90 days. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about these symptoms?

Dr. Patel
Of course, Dr. Mayzik. Syphilis has been called "The Great Pretender" because its symptoms can look like many other diseases. If left untreated, syphilis typically progresses through several stages that can last for weeks, months, or even years. Each stage is characterized by different symptoms.

In the first, or primary, stage of syphilis, the infected person will get one or more sores, called chancres, wherever the bacteria entered the body. This original site of infection could be on or around the penis, scrotum, or vulva, in the vagina, around the anus, in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. Chancres are usually firm, round, and painless, and may last three to six weeks.

The next, or secondary, stage of syphilis is characterized by skin rashes and lesions in the mucous membrane of the mouth, vagina, or anus. Other symptoms are possible as well.

During the latent, or hidden, stage of syphilis, there are no visible signs or symptoms of disease.

Tertiary syphilis is a rare but serious stage of syphilis that can affect multiple organ systems.

Because the symptoms of syphilis can come and go without treatment, resemble other diseases, and in some cases, may not be visible if they're in the vagina or anus, a person may not realize that they're infected. Diagnosis of syphilis typically requires special blood tests.