Syphilis is caused by a bacterium.


  • Sexual contact with an infected partner.
  • Infected mother to her unborn child.

Signs and Symptoms

These are the same for men and women. They very often go unnoticed and can take up to 3 months to show. There are several stages, but the primary and secondary stages are the most infectious. Primary stage: painless ulcers around the genital area mainly, but can appear anywhere on the body. They usually appear around three weeks after infection, and are very infectious. Secondary stage: if untreated, this stage occurs 3-6 weeks after the appearance of the ulcers. A rash covering the whole body or in patches:

  • Hair loss
  • Flu-like symptoms, swollen glands, loss of appetite

Latent stage

This is untreated syphilis. Symptoms have disappeared and the infection can remain undetected for several years. A blood test can diagnose infection. If it remains untreated, syphilis can cause damage to the heart and nervous system, which may be irreversible.


Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics at any stage. Current and former sexual partners will need to be tested and receive treatment if appropriate. Children born to women who have syphilis may also need to be tested.