Without treatment, syphilis can lead to damage throughout your body. Syphilis also increases the risk of HIV infection and, for women, can cause problems during pregnancy. Treatment can help prevent future damage but can't repair or reverse damage that's already occurred.
Small bumps or tumors
Called gummas, these bumps can develop on your skin, bones, liver or any other organ in the late stage of syphilis. Gummas usually disappear after treatment with antibiotics.
Syphilis can cause a number of problems with your nervous system, including:
- Visual problems
These may include bulging (aneurysm) and inflammation of the aorta — your body's major artery — and of other blood vessels. Syphilis may also damage heart valves.
Adults with sexually transmitted syphilis or other genital ulcers have an estimated two- to fivefold increased risk of contracting HIV. A syphilis sore can bleed easily, providing an easy way for HIV to enter your bloodstream during sexual activity.
Pregnancy and childbirth complications
If you're pregnant, you may pass syphilis to your unborn baby. Congenital syphilis greatly increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or your newborn's death within a few days after birth.
Jan. 02, 2014
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- Hicks CB. Diagnostic testing for syphilis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 28, 2013.
- Roett MA, et al. Diagnosis and management of genital ulcers. American Family Physician. 2012;85:254.
- Ho EL, et al. Syphilis: Using modern approaches to understand an old disease. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2011;121:4584.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Sexually transmitted diseases: Treatment guidelines 2010. MMWR. 2010;59:1. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5912a1.htm. Accessed June 28, 2013.
- Partner services FAQs for the public and consumers of partner services activities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/partners/faq-public.html. Accessed July 9, 2013.
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