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When Skin Complications are Caused by Syphilis

Updated on May 24, 2013

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacterium (Treponema pallidum) which can pass from an infected person to an unknowing victim quite easily. In many cases, the use of condoms does not guarantee immunity from this debilitating but curable condition (early stage) since direct contact with a part of the skin which has syphilis sores can already make one susceptible to it. If left untreated, syphilis can cause unreversable havoc to a victim's whole system and health.

The good news is that if treated early on, it can be cured. It is therefore important to watch out for its symptoms especially since it manifests itself on the skin and may appear initially as harmless skin irritations and rashes. No one can really tell for sure if one is a Syphilis bacteria carrier unless one undergoes a blood test.

People who are at risk include those with active sexual lifestyles, multiple partners, and even those in monogamous relationship with a partner suspected of having multiple sexual relations are deemed at risk.

Secondary Syphilis on palm of the hands (image under Creative Commons)
Secondary Syphilis on palm of the hands (image under Creative Commons) | Source

Skin Complications that can be symptoms of Syphilis

Skin conditions which can be related to Syphilis symptoms include the following:

  • Initially, a sore or 'chancre' occuring in the area which has been in direct contact with the bacteria such as in the mouth, genitalia, or rectum. This can look like an elevated, round button. It may resolve after 3-4 weeks but this just means that the bacteria isspreading in the body.
  • Secondary Syphilis: This occurs generally 4 or more weeks after the initial sores have healed and may include headache, general malady, weakness and rashes as symptoms. The rashes may appear as reddish brown, not itchy, can be flat or elevated, can be scaly or not, with pus or not, and can last for weeks or months. Expect sores also to develop in the mouth, nose, folds and genitalia. Lymph nodes might also swell and hair loss (patches) may be experienced. These may disappear without any treatment within weeks to 9 months. This doesn't mean however that the bacteria has left the body because it is just spreading.
  • The tertiary stage usually occurs when it is left untreated. This stage it has already affected several areas of the body. There will be painful rashes and ulcers, anemia, liver disease and event he nervous system is not spared! Even the heart can be affected resulting to heart disease.

Syphilis can cause major damage to the nervous system, the brain, etc if left untreated. One must bevigilant upon seeing growth of skin lesions appearing in the mouth, hands and back. Even if you don't consider yourself as one of those in the risk, it is better to consult a doctor when these conditions occur. It is better to be on the safe side. Syphilis-caused skin problems will occur and disappear, since the bacteria that causes it lies dormant for a particular period depending on the stage of the condition.

Waiver: Please do not consider this as a substitute for consulting a health professional. If symptoms such as these are observed, it is best advice to go directly to a health professional who can give the proper management and treatment.


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    • gmmurgirl profile image

      Gei Moore 5 years ago from Pilipinas

      Hi earthbound1974! It is indeed very scary. There are severe cases of Syphilis in the tertiary stage, and I hope people would be aware of the implications of this condition. It's good to be careful always. And yes, choosing the right partner and making sure he is also std-free at all times is also a must! Thanks.

    • earthbound1974 profile image

      earthbound1974 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      This is scary, gmmurgirl. I can't imagine myself being inflicted with syphilis.

      That's why I am careful in choosing a lifetime partner. I'm scared to have this disease.