Syphilis: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 1/29/2021

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (or sexually transmitted disease). Syphilis can also spread to an unborn baby by an infected mother.

Signs and symptoms of syphilis develop in stages. The first stage is characterized by a painless ulcer or sore in the mouth or genital area known as a chancre. Secondary syphilis is associated with a skin rash found nearly anywhere on the body, that typically does not itch. This rash is often found on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Other associated signs and symptoms can include

Symptoms of the third stage (tertiary syphilis) develop in some people, many years after the infection. Tertiary syphilis can cause damage to many different organs. Symptoms that can result from this organ damage include

Cause of syphilis

Infection with a bacterium known as Treponema pallidum causes syphilis.

Other syphilis symptoms and signs


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.