Syphilis is a most widespread curable sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a type of bacteria called Treponema pallidum.
Actually, a person could get infected with syphilis infection through direct contact with a syphilis sore of an infected person.
These sores, generally, occur on the outer genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. These can also occur on the lips and in the mouth.
In general, the syphilis infection progresses in four stages: primary, secondary, latent (hidden), and tertiary (late). Moreover, the syphilis symptoms in women differ at each stage.
This is the first stage of syphilis. Generally, the syphilis symptoms in this stage typically begin three weeks after you become infected.
Normally, the first symptom of primary syphilis is known by the emergence of sores called chancres, which are small, round, firm, and painless.
You can notice these sores at the spots where syphilis entered your body, generally, on the outer genitals or on the inner part of the vagina. You can also notice swelling of the lymph nodes near the chancre area.
As chancres are painless and occurs inside your body, you may not notice its presence in your body. Even if you notice, the chancre lasts for 28 to 42 days and heals on its own without any treatment leaving a thin scar.
Even after chancres disappearance, you still remain contagious and progresses to the secondary stage if proper treatment is not administered.
In this stage, the syphilis symptoms starts appearing from 2 to 10 weeks after the chancre sore develops. The most common symptom is a rash on the palms of your hands and the bottoms of your feet.
You can also notice some other syphilis symptoms in women such as fever less than 101°, sore throat, weakness, weight loss, swelling of the lymph nodes, neck stiffness, headaches, and paralysis. All these syphilis symptoms indicate that the infection has passed throughout the body.
Usually, the skin rash disappears without scarring in 1-3 months. However, without syphilis treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and late stages of syphilis.
Latent (hidden) stage
After the secondary syphilis symptoms disappear, you enter the latent stage with no outward syphilis symptoms. However, the bacteria may attack the inner organs including the heart, brain, and liver. This stage may start from 2 years to over 30 years after the initial infection.
In early latent syphilis, you can infect a sexual partner. However, the interesting matter is that the syphilis is no longer infectious in the late latent stages. Even if you don’t get treated, the infection progresses to tertiary syphilis.
Tertiary (late) stage
This is the most critical stage of syphilis where the effects of the latent stage appear. Generally, only a few infected people develop the tertiary syphilis complications. If untreated, this stage may lead to death or may occur years after the primary stage.
The syphilis symptoms of this stage are damage to the internal organs such as brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints, gummata (large sores inside the body or on the skin), paralysis, numbness, and blindness.