Syphilis Symptoms in Women

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that affects both men and women. It is spread through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex, and, without treatment, progresses and worsens. As such, early detection is key. While testing and, if needed, treatment are recommended for all people who have or who may have syphilis, they are particularly important for women of childbearing age. Infected women who become pregnant can pass the disease onto their babies in the womb or at birth. In infants, the disease can be life-threatening. In fact, if left untreated long enough, the disease which will eventually affect the vital organs, and is thus life-threatening in all people.

Syphilis Symptoms in Women

Unfortunately, many women who think they may be at risk for syphilis do not seek testing right away. Instead, they wait to see if symptoms will develop. This approach is not recommended, however, because not everyone will experience symptoms. Furthermore, among those who do have symptoms, they are often not pronounced and may be mistaken as being related to other conditions or problems. When syphilis symptoms do occur in women, however, they are indicative of the stage of the disease that the female sufferer is in and may include:

  • The development of a painless chancre (sore) at or near the infection site (first or primary stage)
  • The development of a skin rash that is usually particularly pronounced on the hands and feet (second or secondary stage)
  • Frequent fevers (second)
  • Swollen, tender, or painful glands (second)
  • Fatigue (second)
  • Unexplained weight loss (second)
  • Hair loss (second)
  • Headaches (second)
  • Muscle pain or soreness (second)
  • Brain damage (third or tertiary stage)
  • Nerve damage (third)
  • Eye damage (third)
  • Heart damage (third)
  • Blood vessel damage (third)
  • Liver damage (third)
  • Bone damage (third)
  • Joint damage (third)
  • Loss of balance and coordination (third)
  • Changes in vision (third)
  • Neurological disorders (third)
  • Paralysis (third)
  • Numbness or tingling (third)

Congenital Syphilis

As mentioned, syphilis can be passed on to an unborn child or to a child at birth by a mother who has syphilis. This condition, known as congenital syphilis, can be serious and life threatening. Modern doctors typically test mothers-to-be for syphilis, but there is always a chance that the disease could be contracted during pregnancy, after initial tests have been conducted.

When an infant does have congenital syphilis, the following signs may be present:

  • Discharge from the nose
  • Failure to thrive
  • Rash
  • Anemia
  • Swollen glands

It is also important to note that as many as 40% of babies infected in the womb will die from complications related to syphilis before they can even be brought into this world. Early treatment of the infected mother can greatly reduce the likelihood of a still birth or fetal death. For this reason, pregnant women or those seeking to become pregnant are strongly advised to practice safe sex and to get tested if they engage in any unsafe sexual activity whatsoever.

Syphilis does not have to cause all of these problems and complications. It can typically be treated with a simple but aggressive round of antibiotics. Don’t let fear keep you from getting tested or treated!