Syphilis aka "the French disease" is one of the most common and also the most dreaded STIs. It is an infection that is spread by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. This STI is usually spread through sexual contact –genital, oral and anal sex.

The bacterium enters the body through minor cuts and abrasions in the skin and mucus membrane of the genitals, rectum and mouth. It starts as a painless open sore.

It is transmitted from person to person via skin or mucous membrane contact with these sores. If one partner is infected, there is a full chance that the other partner will have the dreaded infection too.

Less commonly, this venereal disease may spread through direct unprotected contact with an active lesion (such as during kissing) and congenitally i.e. from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth.

Even if you are given the all clear sign for this sexually transmitted disease, you can be re-infected when you come into contact with someone’s syphilis sores.

Syphilis Symptoms

This sexually transmitted infection (STIs) develops in stages and the symptoms vary with each stage. The stages may overlap and symptoms might not occur in the same order. Some people could be infected with this "French disease" and not show any signs for years.

1st stage (primary)– a painless open sore (chancre) develops typically on the vagina, penis, rectum and mouth between 10 to 90 days after exposure to the bacteria. Left on its own the sore will heal within four to six weeks and no chancre will appear again

2nd stage (secondary) – A symmetrical rash appears on both sides of the body. It is prominently seen on the palms of the hand and the feet.The rash is reddish in color and is not itchy.

Whitish lesions appear in the mouth and genital area. Fever, swollen lymph glands, weight loss and sore throat are common at this stage.

The person is very contagious when he or she is at this secondary stage of the disease.

If left untreated, these signs will also disappear but the disease will progress to the next stage.

3rd or latent stage – no symptoms appear, but the infection remains in the body. This latent or hidden stage can last for years.

4th stage – About 15 to 30 percent of people who don’t get treatment for the earlier symptoms will develop complications in this tertiary stage of the disease.

The complications may appear 10 to 20 years after infection was first acquired. At this final stage, it could lead to damage throughout the body- heart, brain, eyes, nerves, liver, bones and joints.

Symptoms include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness and dementia. The damage may lead to death.


Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stage. Penicillin, an antibiotic that kills the Treponema pallidum bacterium is used to treat the disease at any stage of its occurrence but it cannot reverse any damage that has been done at the final stage. Therefore it is best to seek treatment early and go for regular STD screenings.

There are no home remedies or over the counter drugs that can cure this dreaded disease.


Abstinence and Monogamy – Well, unless you are a monk or nun, abstinence is not the most viable option in this times and age. So monogamy is the best alternative – Have mutually monogamous sex with one partner who is known to be uninfected.

Use condoms - Condoms reduce the risk of contracting this sexually transmitted disease but only if it covers the infected area.

Avoid recreational drugs- Being high on alcohol or drugs could “blur” your judgment and lead to risky sexual behavior.

STI Trivial

Phew! The symptoms are scary. To lighten up the mood here are some STD trivial that I have glimpsed from books and the worldwide web.

It seems that STI or sexually transmitted infections has been afflicting humans for thousands of years. Ancient Chinese medical writings described diseases of the genitalia that were most probably syphilis.

And in the 19th century, syphilis was a scourge in Europe. Rather than trying to prevent its spread, countries blamed the disease on the weakness/immorality of their neighbors. So the English referred to syphilis as the “French Disease” and the French in turn called it the “Spanish Disease”.

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