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Syphilis—Facts, Prevention, Treatment

Syphilis is classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is a chronic systemic venereal disease caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidium. Syphilis is evidenced by a principal chancre, which is an area of inflammation/ulceration that presents in genital areas soon after the onset of infection. Left untreated, syphilis has the potential to cause severe health problems.

Stages of Infection

Syphilis is divided into four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Doctors treat it based upon its current stage of activity. The signs and symptoms associated with varying stages differ greatly.

Primary Stage

Initial symptoms of syphilis may take 10 days up to 2 or 3 weeks to appear after infection onset. Painless sores that present on the mouth, penis, vagina or anus are common. Additionally, lymph glands of the neck, armpit, or groin may begin to swell. Swelling can vary between individuals and is not consistent.

Secondary Stage

The varied symptoms of secondary stage syphilis may begin a few weeks after the disappearance of the primary stage sores. Some secondary stage sufferers could experience the following:

  • Non-Itchy Rash
  • Small Skin Growths (Vulva: in Women) (Anus: Men and Women)
  • Swollen Lymph Glands
  • Hair Loss
  • Weight Loss
  • Flu-Like Symptoms

Latent Stage

During the latent stage, syphilis bacteria are still active within the body, but all or most signs or symptoms of the infection are no longer present. Latent stage sufferers are not contagious, but critical areas and organs of the body such as the brain, nerves, bones, and even the heart can still be affected or impaired during this stage. The latent stage may last for years, or it may be short or skipped entirely in some as the syphilis infection moves directly into the tertiary stage.

Tertiary Stage

This stage may cause the infection to begin affecting your organs. This stage can, in some cases, lead to death. Some common symptoms of tertiary stage syphilis are listed below.

  • Loss of Some Control of Muscle Movements
  • Numbness
  • Vision Problems (potentially early blindness)
  • Dementia


The best way to reduce your risk of contracting syphilis is to avoid all sexual contact. If you decide this is not an option that you want to pursue then the following list of preventative tips should be adhered to during every sexual encounter.

  • Use Condoms with Water Based Lubricant During Sexual Activity
  • Always Use Dental Dams During Oral Sex
  • Get Regular STI Check-Ups
  • Dramatically Limit Your Sex Partners or…
  • Engage in Monogamous Relationships Only

Treatment of Syphilis

Penicillin is by far the primary choice in most cases for the treatment of syphilis, but there are many patients who either cannot tolerate the drug or may have complications or other issues related to it. In these cases, other drugs such as the following are often prescribed:

  • Doxycycline
  • Tetracycline
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Azithromycin

Compounding pharmacists can craft all syphilis drugs into multiple forms and amounts for ease of use and to meet your doctor's exact desired dosage. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of compounded medications for your syphilis treatment.

  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA