This sexually transmitted disease (STD), which in its late stages can cause mental disorders, blindness, and death, is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Treponema pallidum. The infection is acquired by direct contact with the sores of someone who has an active infection. Although the bacterium is usually transmitted through the mucous membranes of the genital area, the mouth, or the anus, it also can pass through broken skin on other parts of the body.
A pregnant woman with syphilis can transmit the disease to her unborn child, who may be born with serious mental and physical problems. The syphilis bacterium is very fragile, however, and the infection is rarely, if ever, spread by contact with objects such as toilet seats or towels.
Syphilis is an infection that can stay in the body for years if not recognized and treated promptly. There are three stages of syphilis, and each stage of syphilis has distinct symptoms.
The first stage (primary syphilis) is characterized by the development of a painless lesion called a chancre. The chancre usually develops in the genital area.
Primary syphilis symptoms
Chancre – a painless open genital sore usually on penis or vagina; rarely hands, mouth or anus; sometimes inside vagina or on cervix.
Internal vaginal ulcer