the words sexually transmitted disease on a chalkboard

Syphilis Symptoms

Syphilis is a treatable bacterial infection that is most often spread through sexual contact with an infected individual. While it is easily treatable if detected early, it can actually be life-threatening if left untreated. It is very important you watch for the symptoms of syphilis so you can be quickly treated if you become infected.

Painless Sores

The first symptom of syphilis is usually the appearance of painless sores on your mouth, rectum, genitals, or any other area where the bacteria entered your body. One or more of these sores will usually appear around three weeks after initial exposure and will heal without medical intervention in about six weeks. Unfortunately, it is easy for people to miss this early sign because the sores are often hidden in the vagina or rectum, where they cannot be readily seen.


A few weeks after the initial sores have healed, you may begin to see a rash developing on your torso that will eventually spread over your entire body, including the bottoms of your feet and the palms of your hands. This rash will not itch, but it may be accompanied by more sores in the genital area or mouth, sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches. This may all go away on its own after a few weeks, but you could experience these symptoms on and off for up to an entire year.

Asymptomatic Stage

The aforementioned original symptoms can go away and lead many to think they aren't infected or that they have been healed in some way. You may have many years go by when no symptoms show themselves, but the disease continues to hide in your body, where it can do harm completely unnoticed.

Body Damage

Up to 30% of people infected with syphilis who go untreated will develop serious complications many years after the initial exposure to the disease. You may have serious damage to your liver, brain, heart, joints, bones, blood vessels, eyes, and nerves.

Newborn Symptoms

Women who are infected with syphilis can pass the disease onto their baby during the birthing process. Newborns may show absolutely no symptoms or could have a rash on the soles of their feet or the palms of their hands. As the baby becomes a little older, symptoms may include deformities of their teeth, partial or total deafness, and a condition known as "saddle nose," which causes the collapse of the bridge of the nose. For these reasons, it is extremely important that you let your doctor know if you are infected with syphilis if you become pregnant.


If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned you may have been exposed to syphilis, then do not hesitate to contact your doctor and schedule a test. Just one injection of penicillin can cure you of this potentially fatal disease. Don't let feelings of embarrassment keep you from obtaining the life-saving treatment that can save you from years of horrible health problems.

Last Updated: June 27, 2014