Untreated Syphilis: Can I Die from Syphilis?

by Andrew R. Gibson

Untreated syphilis is serious. Not only can you pass it on to others in the primary and secondary stages, you can also die from the disease. Syphilis has often been called the “great imitator” for its ability to mimic other diseases. Read on to familiarize yourself with the stages of syphilis.

How Do You Catch Syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by the transmission of the bacterium Treponema pallidum. You can catch syphilis by being in direct contact with a syphilis chancre (or sore) located on the mouth, lips, external genitals, vagina, anus or rectum of another person. The bacterium can be transmitted by vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you are pregnant, and you have syphilis, you can pass congenital syphilis onto your baby.

It is a huge misnomer that you can catch syphilis from a door knob, hot tub, toilet seats, swimming pools, or eating utensils. These are simply not ways that the disease is transmitted.

The primary stage: what’s a syphilis chancre?
A syphilis chancre appears in the first or primary syphilis stage. It is a small, round, firm and usually painless sore that shows up around 21 days after infection. It will stick around for 1-5 weeks and then go away on it’s own. However, you may not notice it, or mistake it for an insect bite or some other ailment. This may be why many people are running around with untreated syphilis.

What is secondary syphilis?
Secondary syphilis kicks in with a syphilis rash. This non-itching rash can appear on the palms of the hands or the bottom of the feet. It can also resemble a heat rash and occur all over the body. This secondary syphilis rash, like the initial chancre, will last a few weeks, and then disappear on its own. You may also experience a mild fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, or hair loss in the secondary stage. In both primary syphilis and secondary syphilis, it is easy to pass the disease from person to person.

What is the latent stage of syphilis?
After the rash goes away, untreated syphilis remains in your body and begins to wreak havoc on your internal organs. Even though you will not present symptoms, you still have syphilis. You cannot spread the disease to others during this stage; but you are allowing the disease to do irreversible damage to your body.

Can I Die from Syphilis?
Yes. Once you have entered the late stage of syphilis, your body had been infected for a long time. Almost all parts of your body have been damaged. You can become mentally ill under the effects of neurosyphilis, go blind, have heart disease, and most definitely die.
The thing is, syphilis is curable and treatable with penicillin (or other antibiotics if allergic to penicillin). So, if you suspect you are infected, you should definitely get std testing from either your doctor, or a local testing facility. A simple blood test can tell you quickly if you have the disease. The quicker you can seek treatment, the better.