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Four Stages of Syphilis: Signs and Symptoms

Four Stages of Syphilis: Signs and Symptoms

Syphilis is a highly prevalent sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. Caused by Treponema pallidum, which is a spirochete bacterium, this disease is completely curable; but due to ignorance and shyness of people to undergo a test, the disease may progress to its later stages, producing disastrous health consequences.

Doctors have classified syphilis infection into four stages:

• Primary
• Secondary
• Latent
• Tertiary

Catching syphilis early

In context of signs of syphilis in men, VA doctors say that it is fairly easy to cure syphilis in the primary and the secondary stage. In the latent stage, the person may feel perfectly fine and may not realize he/she is carrying the bacterium inside the body. People who miss the first two stages hardly care about having the infection later but, alas, the truth is they are still carrying the infection.

The tertiary stage is the most dangerous, as the bacterium spreads to other parts of the body and produces serious complications, such as brain damage, nerve damage, blindness, heart problem, and so on. The damage done in this stage is mostly irreparable.

Incubation period of syphilis

Incubation period of this STD is 9-90 days, after which a person may get the first signs and symptoms.

Primary stage

The first sign of syphilis is a button-like firm and round chancre or a sore that may appear on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. This sore heals itself in a few weeks. People wrongly think that the infection is gone. As per doctors, the healing of sores indicate that the infection is now spreading.

Some people may also get swollen lymph nodes at the groin area.

It is at this stage that you must undergo a test and start treatment for complete cure.

If you do not treat the infection now, it enters the next stage.

Secondary stage

The infection spreads in the body, producing symptoms like:

• Non-itchy, reddish brown rash
• Headache
• Body ache
• Anorexia
• Swollen lymph nodes (some people get this in the first stage, while some in the second)
• Hair loss
• Sores in throat, nose, folds of skin, and genital area

These signs and symptoms of syphilis, as per VA doctors, also go away on their own within several weeks or a few months. The infection is still there.

This, too, is a good time to undergo a test and get treatment.

If you still don’t get treatment, the infection enters the latent stage.

Latent stage

This stage may last for just a few days or may last for decades! The bacterium goes dormant and the person thinks he/she is fine. Within two years of contracting the infection, a person becomes non-infectious. Yet, you are still carrying the live bacterium inside you, which can strike at any time.

You still have time to undergo a test, as it is possible to detect the pathogen in the blood at this stage too.

If you miss test and treatment, you are soon going to enter the tertiary or the last stage of syphilis.

Signs of syphilis in men and women, say VA doctors, is almost the same. One needs to be alert about them and take action (undergo test) as soon as you see them.

Tertiary stage

The infection spreads to various vital organs of the body, producing terminal illnesses, such as:

• Liver disease
• Fever
• Painful skin ulcers that do not heal
• Pain in bones
• Anemia
• Heart disease
• Brain damage
• Blindness
• Nervous system damage

Doctors’ advice:

Please do not ignore signs and symptoms of syphilis; visit VA clinic and undergo a test. Begin treatment as soon as possible. Don’t let a curable disease end into a terminal complication.

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