Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a kind of bacteria. It usually starts by causing painless sores or rashes on the skin, but over time it can become much more serious.
Syphilis is spread through contact with sores (called chancres) or other symptoms of syphilis. It can be spread by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex, or by kissing someone who has a syphilis sore on their mouth.
The signs of syphilis can be so mild that you may never notice them. The first sign is a painless sore. This sore can be on or near the vagina, penis, mouth, or anus. It heals by itself even if it is not treated, but unless you get treated, you will still have syphilis.
After a few weeks or months without getting treated, you may have a rash on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet, swollen glands, joint pain, fever, hair loss, sore throat, or headaches. These signs may also go away without treatment, but you still have the disease.
Healthcare providers may look at any sores or other symptoms you have to see if they are syphilis. If you don’t have symptoms, your doctor may also take a small sample of blood from you to test for syphilis.