The entire lifecycle of syphilis has five parts: primary syphilis, secondary syphilis, latent syphilis, tertiary syphilis, and neurosyphilis. Each of these five stages has symptoms that can be diagnosed independently.
The primary stage of syphilis, which occurs due to sexual contact with an infected individual, includes skin lesions or ulcers generally on the genitalia of the infected individual, but can also occur at any other location on the body. These syphilis ulcers, referred to as chancre, are firm and painless even though they may persist for four to seven weeks.
The second stage of syphilis is considered the trickiest, as the symptoms are numerous and can be mistaken for other diseases. The most evident of these symptoms are brown penny-sized rashes. These rashes can even manifest as reddish-pink ones that don’t itch that much. This particular syphilis symptom also appears commonly on feet, palms, and soles of feet. Another place these rashes can appear is on mucous membranes, which may go unnoticed. The second stage syphilis symptoms also include frequent fevers, sore throat, swollen lymph glands, patchy hair loss, muscle aches, and headaches.
The third stage, or the latent stage, is characterized by no apparent symptoms. The infection may survive in this stage for years without being noticed. However, it is interesting to note that the infection appears to be non-infective in this stage, but if left untreated may progress to the next stage.
The tertiary stage of syphilis is quite severe and dangerous. Individuals will have the formation of soft, tumor like balls called gummas. These are chronic and cannot be evaded by the body’s immune system. One of the biggest threats of syphilis at this stage is the damage it causes to the heart.
Neurosyphilis affects the patient’s central nervous system. Mostly found in HIV-positive patients, the symptoms in this complicated stage include headaches, meningeal irritations, destruction and degradation of the optic and facial nerves, and other sensory loss. In rare cases, the individual may also undergo strokes and insomnia.
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