All About Syphilis: The Great Pretender

The words syphilis the great pretender is in black lettering in the center of a pink swirl background. Blog graphic for blog post All about Syphilis for
Syphilis (also known as “the great pretender”)

This post will talk about the most important points about Syphilis. To learn more about this disease, click on the blue links within this post. They will take you to more detailed information.

So, syphilis.

You may have heard about it briefly online or in TV shows, but not really know what it’s about. Well, I’m going to change that! After this post, you are going to know everything you need to know about the STD/STI syphilis (spoiler: syphilis is not pretty).

I would recommend reading this about syphilis (made by the CDC) because I just do an overview, while they REALLY talk about syphilis and all the little details.

With that stated, let’s learn about syphilis.

Overview of syphilis

So, what is syphilis?

Syphilis is an STI (sexually transmitted infection) that is serious (without treatment). It has 4 stages; primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Each progresses and gets more serious at each stage.

Syphilis (at first) causes one or more sores around the body. Over time (at the last stage), it can start to damage the organs and result in death.

This sounds very serious, and it is. For centuries, syphilis was very deadly and killed many people. Luckily, nowadays there is treatment. Unluckily, it can spread in many ways; not just by sex.

How does syphilis spread?

Syphilis can spread in many ways. The way that is most known is by sex (it is called an STI, after all).

During vaginal, anal, or oral sex, if you’re with someone with syphilis (that has the sores), and you get in contact with said sores, you now have syphilis.

Now this sounds obvious. You may just be like: “Ok, don’t have sex with people who have sores.” But, that’s not all.

Syphilis doesn’t just spread directly by sex. It can also spread indirectly, by:

-Toilet seats


-Swimming pools

-Hot tubs


-Sharing clothes, or eating utensils

Now, you may be scared. It seems like you could get syphilis from almost everything. But honestly, you shouldn’t be living like, “Oh, there could be syphilis here” or “There could be syphilis there”, even as scary as syphilis is. That’s not a great way to live. If anything, THAT could make you sick, since you’re always worrying.

The good thing about syphilis is that it’s treatable! So if you have syphilis, you can get cured! I’ll talk about this later, so let’s get into:

The stages of syphilis

Rectangle shape. Left side is tomato red with the words Cleveland Clinic, warning signs of syphilis, and Cleveland Clinic logo in white lettering.  On right side, is a white and brown skin hand spotted. They are against a light pink peach background. Blog graphic for blog post all about syphilis for
Picture from Cleveland Clinic

I would recommend going to the CDC website I had at the top to get full details about it because I won’t go into full detail. But I’ll try to sum it up.

The primary stage is the first stage. There will be one or more sores. These will go away after a few weeks. Even if you don’t get treatment, they will still go away. So if you see any, you should still get treatment. If you don’t, then it can progress to the second stage.

The secondary stage is where skin rashes and/or sores will start to appear. It usually starts with a rash. The rash can appear on the sore(s) you had in the primary stage or a few weeks after it. It usually won’t itch, but you may not even notice it because of how faint it can be.

There can be other symptoms that can make you feel sick. At this point, you should get treatment. But if you don’t, then these symptoms will go away and could progress into the 3rd or even 4th stage.

The latent stage is where there are no symptoms. Without treatment, syphilis could be in your body for years.

The tertiary stage is the last stage. Most people don’t reach this stage, but when they do, syphilis affects many different organ systems, such as the heart and blood vessels. It occurs 10-30 years after getting syphilis and is very serious. It damages internal organs and can kill you. If you do have this, a healthcare provider can diagnose this stage with the help of multiple tests.

Also, syphilis can affect other parts of the body.

Syphilis can spread to the brain and the nervous system (called neurosyphilis), the eye (called ocular syphilis), or the ear (otosyphilis). These have different symptoms, but I’m not going to explain them all for the sake of this post’s length.

Tests and treatment

Ok, so you may be wondering about if there is treatment, since this is very scary.

So yes, there is treatment. First, let’s talk about what test you will get to see if you have syphilis.

For syphilis, most of the time a blood test will be used. Sometimes they will test fluid from a syphilis sore.

For treatment, if the right antibiotics are used, then it can be treated. However, the treatment may not undo any of the damage done. So for example, if you got otosyphilis and it caused hearing loss, even with the treatment you may still have hearing loss.

Also, EVEN IF YOU GET TREATMENT, THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE IMMUNE TO SYPHILIS. This is very important, because I feel like a lot of people may forget this. You need to know that you can still get infected with syphilis after treatment.

Image from Amaze

The takeaway

So, what is the takeaway?

The takeaway is to be very careful when having unprotected sex. Make sure that your partner(s) don’t have syphilis (or any STD/STI for that matter) because we’ve seen what syphilis does, especially in the last stage.

Syphilis throughout history was known to kill many many people. It was (probably) kinda like smallpox in a way, that it was infamous for killing many people.

It spreads similar to many STIs (sex), but also spreads indirectly.

Luckily though, there is a cure. But you should still be careful, as any damage caused by syphilis may not be able to be fixed by treatment.

So, there it is about syphilis! I hope this helped you out learning about this STI/STD (seriously what’s the difference between STI and STD). If you have any questions, you can put them in the comments and I will try to answer any of them.

And again, check out the post about syphilis from the CDC because this is where I got all my information from.

See ya!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *