Sign up for
- Follow the medications that matter most to you
- Receive email notifications as soon as your medication pages are updated
Once a person contracts syphilis, the disease goes through three stages. The first, or primary, stage is marked by the appearance of a single sore, or chancre, about 20 days after infection. This painless lesion appears where syphilis was contracted. Within a week or two, the chancre usually heals on its own, but a syphilis lesion increases the risk that a person can contract HIV by 5 times, so abstaining from sex at this point is VITAL. After the chancre heals, the secondary stage of syphilis begins. At this point, a painless red or brown rash may appear on the body, especially on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. The secondary stage is also characterized by flu-like symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and aching muscles. Because these symptoms are often indistinguishable from other diseases, syphilis is known as "the great imitator." But these "imitation" symptoms will usually resolve themselves without treatment within a few weeks. The final, or latent, stage of syphilis begins when secondary symptoms abate. At this point, there are generally no outward signs of syphilis, but the bacterium continues to thrive internally.