You can be infected with syphilis and not have any symptoms. Remember, you can still give syphilis to other people, even if you have no symptoms. Early symptoms are very similar to other types of diseases or may be so mild that you don't even notice them.
There are four stages of syphilis symptoms:
Stage One - Primary:
- You may notice a sore, called a chancre, which does not hurt or feel uncomfortable but is firm and round.
- The sore will show up anywhere from 9-90 days after you are infected. The average time for the sore to show up is 21 days.
- The sore will show up where the bacteria entered your body, which is usually on the penis, anus/butt, vulva (the area around your vagina), mouth, lips or hand.
- The sore can heal on its own within three to six weeks, but you still need to be treated and can still infect other people.
Stage Two - Secondary:
If you don't get treated, flu-like symptoms can develop between three weeks and six months after infection. You can also get a rash on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet or your groin area, which are usually brown sores about the size of a penny. The rash might also show up over your whole body.
Other symptoms during this stage can include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Patchy hair loss
- Aching muscles
- Pain in your joints
- Sores in your mouth
- Feeling tired
- Lumps, warts or sore in moist areas of your body
Syphilis bacteria live in the rashes that show up on your body and you can spread the infection to other people through any physical contact with the rashes, even if it's not sexual. The rashes usually go away within two to six weeks, even without treatment. However, you still need to be treated to prevent spreading the infection to other people and to prevent more serious health problems.
Stage Three - Latent:
Stage Three happens when you don't treat syphilis and the symptoms you had seem to have gone away. The infection is now latent, or "hidden," and you can stay in this stage for many years.
Stage Four - Tertiary:
Some people get tertiary or late syphilis. This is when the bacteria can cause serious health problems, including damage to your heart, eyes, brain, nervous system, joints or other parts of your body. This stage can begin anywhere from 10-30 years after you become infected.
Tertiary syphilis can cause:
- Mental illness
- Heart disease
- Brain damage