Syphilis

Don't be ignorant about this disease
Image by Nicki Varkevisser CC BY 2.0 Cropped

Risk - any sex with another

Often there are no symptoms

Street names

the pox, bad blood

Facts about syphilis

  • Caused by a corkscrew shaped bacterium Treponema pallidumthat can bore into the skin and membranes anywhere it touches.
  • A disease of the outside of the body. Starts with sores, called chancres (pronounced 'shank-ers'), usually on the penis or anywhere the skin touches an infected area. Sores can also be on your finger, tongue, or just about anywhere.
Syphilis infection after using a condom

This guy wore a condom but still got infected! The organism touched the base of his penis and caused a lesion called a 'condom chancre'. This is an example of how condoms don’t always work.

Symptoms

Syphilis occurs in three forms:

Primary syphilis
Primary syphilis infection

Painless lesions or sores called "chancres" occur at the site of sexual contact, usually on your penis. Sores appear about 3 weeks after having sex with an infected person and can be small or large and can freak you out when you see one on your penis. Easy to treat and prevent further disease. If untreated, the sores may actually disappear for a while, but the disease is still active.

Secondary syphilis
Secondary syphilis infection

If primary syphilis is untreated, the initial sore on your penis will go away but hundreds of sores can appear all over the body in 4-6 weeks. Each lesion contains the organisms that causes the disease and can be contagious. Can be treated with antibiotics to prevent further problems.

Late syphilis
Late syphilis infection

Without treatment of secondary syphilis, internal destruction to many body organs can appear many years later. May cause blindness, mental illness because of brain infection, and other terrible incurable problems.

Treatment

  • Primary and secondary cases easily treated and cured with antibiotics.
  • No home remedies or over-the-counter drugs work.

Recurrence

Having syphilis before does NOT protect a person from getting it again.

Prevention

  • Only 100% completely safe option - choose not to have sex!
  • Condoms may work if used properly but only the part of the penis covered by the condom will be protected. Any other unprotected body area that touches the organism can get a sore.

Individual help

If you have further questions or concerns about STDs, ask Dr. Mike, an internationally known Clinical Microbiologist specializing in STDs. He has worked extensively with teenage boys and contributed all the information and STD images on the disease pages here.

Get answers, get help, get smart - take responsibility for yourself!

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