Syphilis is contracted during sexual intercourse (oral, genital or anal) when there is contact with a contagious lesion or rash. An infected woman could pass it on to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. It is rarely transmitted through the use of contaminated equipment used to inject drugs.
What are the symptoms of syphilis?
The first symptoms appear 10 days to 3 months after exposure.
Primary stage (3 to 90 days)
Swelling or inflammation of the lymph nodes (can take from 1 to 6 weeks to disappear)
Appearance of a painless ulcer called a canker (on or around the mouth, genitals or anus) that disappears in 3 to 8 weeks
Possibility of transmitting the infection to others even after the canker has disappeared
Secondary stage (2 to 12 weeks, sometimes up to 6 months)
Non-itchy rash on the palms of hands, soles of feet or the entire body
No symptoms or reappearance of contagious lesions, but possibility of transmitting the infection to others
Latency that can last from 20 to 30 years
Untreated infection progresses to the tertiary stage in almost one-third of cases