Overview STDs: syphilis

Below, you will find a description of the different STDs.  

Here, you will also find all information if you wish to be tested.



What is syphilis?

Syphilis is caused by a bacterium.  The syphilis bacterium lodges itself in the mucous membrane of the penis, vagina, anus or mouth, causing an infection.  Through the mucous membranes, the bacteria eventually end up in the blood, thus spreading to other organs.  During pregnancy, the infection can be transmitted to the foetus.

If not treated in time, the consequences are particularly serious!

How is it transmitted?

Syphilis is transmitted by sex without a condom. However, touching a syphilis chancre (a sore on/near the genitals) also poses a risk of infection.


Syphilis progresses in three stages. The first stage, as well as the second stage can be without complaints. Below, you will find an overview of the specific complaints for each stage.

First stage
  • On average three weeks after infection, a sore (also called chancre) appears on the mucous membrane of the genitals (penis, vagina), anus or mouth, which can grow up to a centimetre in diameter. Sores may also appear on fingers and other places on the skin.
  • The sore is red, feels hard and hurts very little or not at all.
  • Lymph nodes located near the chancre, for instance in the groin, are often swollen.
  • The sore disappears within one to three months, but the illness lies dormant and still remains contagious. 
Second stage
  • Three to eight weeks after the chancre appeared, the second stage develops. The chancre has often disappeared by then. 
  • One will start experiencing flu-like symptoms such as: fever, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, sore throat, tiredness.
  •  A rash, that doesn’t itch and sometimes is hardly visible, may appear all over the body, even on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hand. 
  • Possible patchy hair loss.
  • Eye infection and deteriorating eyesight. 
  • White-grey, wart-like growths around the penis, anus or vagina.

If untreated, the infection will progress to a latent phase.  Unnoticed, the bacteria however remain present in your body. 

Third stage

If left untreated, the disease will progress to the third stage two to twenty years after the initial infection.

  • In this stage, almost all organs will get infected or damaged.
  • In this stage, complaints can also vary greatly depending on which organ is affected.

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