Syphilis: Overview

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is treatable with antibiotics. Syphilis in a pregnant woman that is transferred to a baby is called neonatal syphilis. Infection with syphilis has multiple phases of symptoms. The first phase (primary syphilis) has a characteristic genital ulcer called a “chancre”. In some patients, the chancre is not noticed because it is too small, or is inside the vagina, and the syphilis remains undiagnosed. Secondary syphilis is a slow spreading of the infection throughout the body, with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, poor appetite, sore throat, muscles aches, tiredness, and other symptoms. The symptoms may be vague, non-specific, and may come and go with varying severity. After secondary syphilis there is a latent phase with no symptoms. The third phase is tertiary syphilis, which does not occur in all patients, and involves serious damage to various major body organs. Because of the different phases, and great variety in symptoms, failure to diagnose syphilis can occur. Syphilis also has symptoms similar to many other disorders with vague symptoms, and so misdiagnosis of syphilis as another diagnose is possible.

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