To answer this question, first, we need to explain the meaning of the terms STD and STI, which are basically synonyms in their own right. STD stands for a sexually transmitted disease, and STI stands for sexually transmitted infection, that with both invade a human body with a bacteria or a virus of some sort, depending on the disease, or infection. Syphilis is one of those sexually transmitted diseases that spread around your body via antibodies that the syphilis bacteria produce.
People who already suffer from some other sexually transmitted disease are at high risk of getting infected with syphilis, as are those people who practice unsafe sex or have multiple partners. The bacteria that causes syphilis infection can also be transmitted from a mother to her yet unborn child, which is also a high-risk situation for both the mother and the child. Some of the lighter symptoms of syphilis like skin rashes, sores on your skin and your genital area which are painless at this stage, can appear in the first weeks of the infection and they can last for a long time before the bacteria becomes fully active in your body. After that period, the symptoms are progressing and they become more serious if the infection is not yet detected at this stage because a person has not been treated for syphilis.
In order to avoid getting infected with syphilis, you should take care of yourself, avoid sexual contact that falls under a high-risk category, and if you suspect that you might be infected, you should consult your doctor and get tested.
Different stages of syphilis
There are three main stages of syphilis, and the symptoms in each of them vary. They are:
- Primary; this is the first of the stages of syphilis infections. It a mild one, with mild corresponding symptoms that usually become visible after a few weeks to two months after you have been sexually active. Symptoms at this stage include chancres, small lesions on your skin that do not cause you any pain, and the enlargement of lymph glands. They can appear in your genital area, or around your mouth if you are practicing unsafe oral sex.
- Secondary; this stage starts after the appearance of those chancres on your skin. It takes a few weeks for this stage to kick in. The bacteria that causes syphilis at this stage enters your bloodstream and stays there forever, which in return can cause symptoms like headaches, losing your weight, feeling tired and sick all the time. Also, the rash on your skin becomes more severe, and greyish skin patches start to appear around the moist parts of your body, like genitals. These symptoms do not last that long though, but they can cause a lot of damage to your health.
- Tertiary; if syphilis is not being treated up to this stage, people who are infected with syphilis enter a so-called latent stage, where there are no visible symptoms, but the bacteria is still inside the body.
To prevent these stages of syphilis infection, you should test yourself, and if you need treatment, this will usually be performed with antibiotics.