Syphilis is an STD that has been recorded since Medieval times.  Years ago it was nearly eradicated from the USA but is experiencing a resurgence, primarily among gay men.

The disease is caused by a bacteria called Treponema Pallidum.  Its symptoms are very similar to other diseases, making it difficult to identify on the outset.  

How do I get this disease?

It is spread through contact with a syphilis sore, which can appear on the genitals, anus, vagina, or inside the rectum.  They can even be inside the mouth and on the lips.  This can happen by either regular genital sexual contact, oral sex, or anal sex.  It cannot be transmitted by touching a doorknob, a toilet seat, getting in the hot tub, sharing clothing, or silverware.

Signs and Symptoms

Syphilis infections can stay unidentified for years.  Adults can have no symptoms before the bacteria causes complications.  The disease is spread when people are unaware that they have syphilis sores in its primary or secondary stages.

Primary Stage

The first symptoms of syphilis are with the single sore, which is called a chancre, though there can more than one.  The first symptoms start anywhere between 10 to 90 days.  The chancre appears where the bacteria entered the body.  It is small, round, hard, and doesn't hurt.  The chancre itself lasts for 3 to 6 weeks and then heals.  If the sufferer does not receive treatment, the illnesses go to the second stage.

Secondary Stage

Lesions of the mucous membranes and skin rash make up the secondary stage.  The rash can appear on more than one spot on the body and is not itchy.  They appear after the chancre has finished healing.  The rash is a series of rough, red, or reddish-brown spots that are on the palms and the soles of the feet.  They might be very faint or look like the rashes of other ailments.  Accompanying symptoms include a sore throat, hair loss in patches, fatigue, muscle aches, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat.  If the disease is not treated at this stage, it goes onto the latent, and more serious late stages.

Latent Stage and Late Stage

Syphilis becomes hidden when the primary and secondary symptoms disappear.  This can persist for years, only to resurface 10 to 20 years later.  It can damage the organs, such as the brain, heart, blood vessels, liver, joints, bones, and eyes.  The sufferer may have trouble with coordination, numbness, fading eyesight, and memory problems.  


Syphilis is increasing again in America and has been reported in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Southern California, Chicago, New York City, and Miami.  There have been HIV infections reported as well because the chancres make it easier to transmit HIV through bodily fluids.  Syphilis is diagnosed under a microscope by taking material from a chancre, or by using a blood test.  Syphilis can be cured by penicillin in its primary and secondary stages.  It can be prevented by using condoms, but the best prevention is by abstinence.