Syphilis is generally a bacterial infection which spreads usually by contacts that are sexually related. Practically, it starts as a painless sore on the genitals, mouth or ructions which eventually spreads from persons to person through the skin or mucous membrane contact with these sores.

Tertiary syphilis is also known as infection by Treponema pallidum or late syphilis. When a person is infected with this disease, lesions are formulated on the body and most specifically around the anus, mouth, and genitalia. Further contacts with these ulcerative lesions would consequently lead to a transmission of the condition.

It is important to understand that there 3 stages in the progression of syphilis which are primary, secondary and tertiary. This article would concentrate on the tertiary stage as would be explained below. The sooner the treatment for syphilis is done, the better it would be for the patient.

Class of people who can contract syphilis

  • Sexually active people. People who are sexually active and are infected by the Treponema bacteria have a very high tendency of contracting syphilis. One should be aware that teenagers fall into this class of sexually active people so a person as young as 15 can be affected by this very infectious condition.
  • Any gender. Tertiary syphilis is not restricted to a particular class of gender as no preference or racial predilection is observed. According to the CDC report released in 2006, the male and female incidences of syphilis at primary and secondary levels stand at the ratio of 6:1. In addition, the ratio also for the untreated class among the above which developed to the tertiary stage is around 2:1.
  • People living with other STDs. This is as a result of low socio-economic standards and inadequate access to reasonable healthcare in some certain geographical regions. People, therefore, live with the syphilis infection among other forms of STDs and allow it get to the tertiary stage.
Congenital Syphilis

Risk factors and the causes of tertiary syphilis

Folks who are exposed to some forms of practice are at a very high risk of being infected with syphilis. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Transfusion of contaminated blood which has been tampered with by the syphilitic bacteria. • Having sex with a new partner who is infected with syphilis.
  • The high increase in the usage of illicit drugs like Viagra and cocaine which leads to high-risk sexual behavior • Having multiple sexual partners at the same time.
  • Practicing unsafe or unprotected sex.
  • Lack of treatment for a pregnant woman infected with syphilis which puts her at a 90& risk of passing the disease to the baby in the womb.
  • Having unprotected sexual intercourse with partners infected with other STDs.

The risk factors listed above are not a sure way to be infected but increases the chances of being infected when compared to individuals who do not put themselves in such positions.

Symptoms of tertiary syphilis

  • Joint and bone pain
  • Presence of multiple soft tumors termed as gummas, mostly on the brain, long bones, liver and lungs.
  • Loss of hearing which may be complete or partial.
  • Vision problems like blindness
  • Neurological abnormalities; numbness, paralysis, muscle coordination problems, dementia, psychosis, abnormal reflexive actions and so on
  • Aortic inflammation, regurgitation, and aneurysms
  • Gummas in the gastrointestinal system which causes weight loss, feeling of fullness after consuming little food, etc.

How tertiary syphilis can be diagnosed

This can be done at any stage of the disease. The possible tests include

  • A blood test which is done to detect antibodies against syphilis
  • Physical examination with the evaluation of the person’s medical history
  • Analysis of lesion fluids in the laboratory done under a microscope.
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid especially in cases of Neurosyphilis.
Syphilis In Children

Prevention of tertiary syphilis

The following are simple ideas that can help keep away this deadly disease:

Treatment of syphilis

Treatment of syphilis can be effectively done using the antibiotics drug, penicillin, which is given as an intramuscular injection for some weeks. This form of medication is cheap and very simple to administer. Individuals who are allergic to penicillin should be given small dosages and in a very controlled manner until the patient’s body becomes accustomed to the drug.


Syphilis, at the tertiary stage, may damage the nerves, eyes, brain, heart, blood vessels, bones, joints, and liver. These occurring problems can occur even many years after the original untreated infection. Tertiary syphilis may, however, be effectively treated if duly managed with attention as described above.