Syphilis is one of the sexually transmitted diseases you can acquire with unprotected sex, caused by bacteria that can lead to long-term complications and even death when treatment is not properly provided. In 2010, new syphilis cases reached 45,834, of which 13,774 were primary and secondary syphilis cases, the earliest yet most infectious stages of the sexually transmitted disease.

Syphilis is acquired when you come into direct contact with a syphilis sore mostly found in the genital area (vagina, rectum, anus) although there are instances that sores can appear in the mouth or on the lips. Because of the direct-contact nature of its transmission, syphilis is generally transmitted during anal, oral, or vaginal sex. Women looking to get pregnant or are pregnant must be careful because the disease can be passed on to an unborn child.

It generally takes 21 days for symptoms of syphilis to appear after infection, though it is also possible for symptoms to appear as early as 10 days or as far as 90 days. Single sores typically signify the primary stage of the disease but some may have multiple sores. You’ll know where you got the infection first because the first place the sores will appear on will be the spot where the syphilis bacteria first entered your body. The sores will not be painful so you might not notice them, lasting three to six weeks and healing even without treatment. You do run the risk of moving on to the secondary stage of the disease if you don’t get treated.

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