Signs & Symptoms
Up 50% of people infected with syphilis show no symptoms, but they can still pass it on to others during sex.
Stage 1 (primary) syphilis is indicated by the appearance of an ulcer-type (painless) sore call a chancre (pronounced "shan-ker"). It can appear any time between 10 and 90 days after infection. It usually heals by itself (disappears) in about a month. The sore may be around your groin area, on your penis, inside around your anus (or vagina), or inside or around your mouth.
Stage 2 (secondary) syphilis has many signs and symptoms, such as, fever, headaches, hair loss and muscle aches. Usually there will be a rash somewhere on your body, most often on your hands and the soles of your feet. Again this tends to clear up by itself.
Stage 3 (latent and tertiary) syphilis happens after stage 2 syphilis becomes dormant (hidden). There may be no signs for many years, but left untreated it can still severely damage your health. If you have syphilis for more than two years you can no longer pass it on. You can however become ill later with heart, lung or brain problems, possibly leading to death. It’s worth noting that after two years if you are sexually active you can become re-infected with syphilis and this can make you infectious again.
If you are HIV positive, syphilis may present differently than for those who are HIV negative, and may require a longer course of treatment.