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· 3 min read
Dr. Prem Kumar M.B.B.S. M.D. T.D.S.

Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, has been a persistent health concern throughout history. In this blog, we will delve into the various aspects of syphilis, including its causes, symptoms, stages, and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

Understanding Syphilis:

Syphilis is a complex STI that can progress through distinct stages if left untreated. It is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, but it can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child during pregnancy.

Stages of Syphilis:

  1. Primary Syphilis:

    • The first sign of infection is typically a painless sore or ulcer, known as a chancre, at the site of infection (genital, anal, or oral).
    • The sore may go unnoticed, leading to delayed diagnosis.
  2. Secondary Syphilis:

    • If untreated, syphilis progresses to the secondary stage.
    • Symptoms include skin rashes, mucous membrane lesions, and flu-like symptoms.
    • These manifestations can come and go, making diagnosis challenging.
  3. Latent Syphilis:

    • Without treatment, syphilis enters a latent stage where no visible symptoms are present.
    • The infection remains in the body, posing a risk for complications.
  4. Tertiary Syphilis:

    • In some cases, syphilis can progress to the tertiary stage, causing severe damage to organs such as the heart, brain, and nerves.
    • Tertiary syphilis can be life-threatening.

Importance of Early Diagnosis:

Early diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and preventing the progression of syphilis to advanced stages. Dermatologists play a vital role in recognizing syphilis-related skin manifestations, aiding in prompt diagnosis and intervention.

Symptoms and Dermatologic Manifestations:

Chancre: A painless sore at the site of infection. Rashes: Red or brownish rashes on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Mucous Membrane Lesions: Sores in the mouth, genital, or anal areas. Hair Loss: Thinning or patchy hair loss, known as syphilitic alopecia.


Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, typically penicillin. The choice of antibiotic and duration of treatment depend on the stage of the infection. It is essential to complete the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed by a healthcare professional.


Preventing syphilis involves practicing safe sex, using condoms consistently, and getting regular STI screenings, especially for individuals with multiple sexual partners.


Syphilis is a serious and potentially life-threatening STI that requires early detection and treatment. If you suspect syphilis or notice any unusual skin symptoms, seeking prompt medical attention is essential for effective management and prevention of complications.