Syphilis: This is the gravest and most feared venereal disease. Initial symptoms are light and may pass unnoticed. Untreated syphilis may irreversibly damage vital organs causing blindness, insanity, paralysis and death. A spiral shaped bacterium called “Treponema palladium” causes syphilis.
Course of the Disease: The primary sore most often occurs on a man's glans penis (head of penis) or foreskin or on a woman's vulva (external genital) lips or clitoris. It starts as a small red spot that grows moist and eroded, with a hard base that feels like a button.
First Stage Syphilis: Usually 10 to 40 days after the infection, a painless sore appears on the area that had directly been infected. Besides the genital area the sore can appear at the anus, on the lips or on the nipple. The glands nearby may be swollen. The chancre (sore) clears up on its own within 4 to 10 weeks. At this first stage, a complete cure is possible.
Second Stage: Between six weeks and three months after the infection, a skin rash appears and patches of hair drop out. There may be headache, sore throat, a slight fever and swollen glands. Sufferers are very infectious and can transmit the disease even by kissing if the skin of the mouth is broken. All signs of the disease vanish within a year.
Third or Latter Stage: After a lull of up to 30 years, the disease may attack any part of the body like heart, blood vessels, brain or spinal cord. Other effects include mouth ulcers and erosions of the skin, bones and ligaments. Major effects can be blindness, paralysis, insanity and death. Damage, by this time, is irreversible.
Congenital Syphilis: Mothers with syphilis may pass it to their unborn babies via the placenta. One-third of the babies produced by these mothers, are born with syphilis. Treatment of the mother, early in pregnancy, protects the baby.