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Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum. Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore called a chancre.
The signs and symptoms of syphilis vary depending in which of the four stages it presents (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary).
The primary stage: classically presents with a sore or chancre (a firm, painless, non-itchy skin ulceration), others develop no visible signs of infection.
Secondary stage: A non-itchy rash can appear anywhere on the body, but often occurs on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Latent and late stage: This stage begins when primary and secondary symptoms disappear. Without treatment, syphilis stays in the body even though there are no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they are very serious and often occur 10-20 years after the initial infection. Syphilis can sloowly and permanently damage the heart, brain, and other vital organs.
Testing: Soon after infection occurs, the body produces syphilis antibodies that can be detected by a simple blood test.