Syphilis is a serious sexually transmitted disease or STD, that is caused by bacteria.  It has different stages.  Al Capone is a figure who died of syphilis.  If it is caught early, it can be treated.  Without treatment, it can damage your body’s organs, leading to serious consequences including death.

How is it Spread?

It is spread through skin-to-skin contact with a syphilis rash or sore during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.  It can get into the body through the vagina, mouth, penis, anus, or broken skin.  If a woman is pregnant and she has it, the disease can also be passed through the bloodstream to an unborn baby.  However, you cannot get syphilis from doorknobs, hot tubs, swimming pools, clothing, or toilet seats.

The Symptoms

Syphilis shows itself through various symptoms as the disease progresses in stages.  Syphilis can be spread during the initial two stages.

Stage 1: Chancre

Syphilis begins with one sore called a chancre.  It takes anywhere between 10 to 90 days, with an average 21 days.  It is a small, round, painless bump that appears on the body.  It can appear anywhere the infection entered, like on the tongue, lips, vulva, cervix, vagina, and so on.  It is at this time where the disease can be spread through bodily contact.  It lasts between 3 to 6 weeks and can heal without medication; but, if it is not treated, it progresses to Stage 2.

Stage 2: Rash

Stage 2 occurs while the chancre is healing, and is characterized by a rash.  This rash can have a rough, red, or red-brown spots on the palms of the hands or the bottoms of the feet, and is not itchy.  You might get sores in the mouth, throat, cervix.  There may be a fever, swollen glands, sore throat, headaches and muscle aches, weight loss, tiredness/fatigue, and hair loss in patches.  The infection can be passed to other sex partners via open sores or rash.  Although the rash will go away without treatment, if the infection isn’t healed, it will move to Stage 3, or the latent stage.

What Should I Do If I Get Syphilis?

Stage 3: Latent Stage

The disease goes dormant during this time, and cannot be passed on.  Sometimes the Stage 2 symptoms will recur.  The latent stage can last for years until it goes to the Late Stage in some sufferers.

Stage 4: Late Stage

The late stage is the very serious stage suffered by about 15 percent of the people with uncured syphilis.  This is where the disease can cause organ damage, like the eyes, blood vessels, liver, heart, bones, joints, nerves, and brain.  You can get nerve damage, blindness, paralysis, dementia, and so on. A person can die from the last stage of this disease, and this can happen anywhere from a few years to 20 years after you first found the disease.


Syphilis is a serious STD that can cause damage to many organ systems of the body.  If you have a syphilis sore, you need to abstain from sex immediately and see your doctor.  Untreated syphilis is very bad news.