Pictures: Syphilis – All stages [Warning: Strong Images]

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What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.

The hallmark symptom of syphilis, typically seen in the initial stage, is a painless ulcer, known as a chancre, predominantly appearing in the genital region. The most significant risk of transmission comes from individuals in the primary or secondary stages of the disease, particularly when active lesions are present on their sexual organs.

Before showing the pictures, here’s a succinct overview of the three distinct stages of syphilis.

Stages of Syphilis

The initial or primary stage of syphilis is perhaps the most recognizable, marked by the presence of a genital sore, known as a chancre. This lesion, persisting for 3 to 6 weeks, may resolve itself without any intervention, which can misleadingly suggest self-resolution of the disease.

Following the disappearance of the chancre, after a period of weeks or months, syphilis reemerges in its secondary stage. This phase may present with skin lesions and mucous membrane involvement. If untreated, these symptoms may temporarily subside, only to resurface years later in the form of tertiary syphilis. This is the most severe stage of the disease, posing a high risk of producing disfiguring lesions.

The photo gallery below offers a visual journey through the primary, secondary, and tertiary stages of syphilis. The highly disfiguring lesions of tertiary syphilis displayed are infrequent in today’s medical landscape due to timely and effective treatments. However, such manifestations were relatively common in the era preceding antibiotics.

If you want to read more about syphilis, we recommend the following article: Syphilis: Symptoms, Tests, Transmission, Treatment, and Cure.

Caution: The following gallery contains graphic images depicting the primary, secondary, and tertiary stages of syphilis. These images consist of visually intense and disfiguring lesions or representations of sexual organs. We encourage discretion and recommend that you refrain from accessing this gallery if your current environment is not conducive to the viewing of such content.

Images and photos

Primary syphilis – Syphilitic chancre

Genital ulcer - Primary syphilis
Genital ulcer – Primary syphilis
Tongue ulcer - Primary syphilis acquired by oral sex
Tongue ulcer – Primary syphilis acquired by oral sex
Syphilitic chancre
Syphilitic chancre
 Syphilitic chancre on the vulva
 Syphilitic chancre on the vulva
 Syphilitic chancre on the penis
 Syphilitic chancre on the penis

Secondary syphilis

Photos of the syphilis rashes on the soles, palms, body, and oral cavity.

Secondary syphilis - rashes on the palms
Secondary syphilis – rashes on the palms
Secondary syphilis - Rash on the back
Secondary syphilis – Rash on the back
Secondary syphilis palmar lesions
Secondary syphilis palmar lesions
Secondary syphilis - Reddish purple spots on the palms
Secondary syphilis – Reddish purple spots on the palms
Secondary syphilis - Eruptions on the palms and soles
Secondary syphilis – Eruptions on the palms and soles
Severe secondary syphilis (malignant syphilis) with lesions all over the body
Severe secondary syphilis (malignant syphilis) with lesions all over the body
Secondary syphilis - lesions on the hard palate
Secondary syphilis – Lesions on the hard palate
Rash on the sole of the foot
Rash on the sole of the foot
Secondary syphilis lesions on the tongue
Secondary syphilis lesions on the tongue
Pustular secondary syphilis - rare and aggressive form
Pustular secondary syphilis – rare and aggressive form

Tertiary syphilis – Syphilitic Gumma

Syphilitic gumma on the hand - Tertiary syphilis
Syphilitic gumma on the hand – Tertiary syphilis
Syphilitic gumma on the face - Tertiary syphilis
Syphilitic gumma on the face – Tertiary syphilis
Disfiguring tertiary syphilis - Common findings before the antibiotic era
Disfiguring tertiary syphilis – Common findings before the antibiotic era
Effects of tertiary syphilis on a patient's skull
Effects of tertiary syphilis on a patient’s skull
Destruction of nasal cartilage due to tertiary syphilis
Destruction of nasal cartilage due to tertiary syphilis

Credits

  • Shutterstock.com
  • Multiple skin ulcers from malignant syphilis – The Lancet
  • Secondary Syphilis in Cali, Colombia: New Concepts in Disease Pathogenesis – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Palmar-and-plantar-rash-of-secondary-syphilis-Typical-palmar-and-plantar-rash-of_fig8_44630365 [accessed 26 Apr, 2023]
  • Morais, Lima & Melo, Thayná & Kitakawa, Dárcio & Da, Felipe & Peralta, Felipe & Gonzales, Sabrina & Carvalho, Luis Felipe & Carvalho, Silva. (2022). Secondary syphilis in oral cavity: Case report and literature review. International Journal of Case Reports and Images. 13. 226-229. 10.5348/101366Z01TM2022CR.
  • Tertiary syphilitic ulceration of the scalp – St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives & Museum.
  • An Alaskan Inuit skull, showing the effects of syphilis. Photograph by Ales Hrdlicka, ca. 1910.
  • A man suffering from syphilis, displaying pustular syphiloderm lesions on his scalp and torso. Process print after a photograph, ca. 1905.
  • Face of a woman with a typical ‘syphilitic nose’. Picture: St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives & Museum.

Author(s)

Pedro Pinheiro holds a medical degree from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Nephrology, certified by the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and the Brazilian Society of Nephrology (SBN). He is currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, with his credentials recognized by the University of Porto and the Portuguese Nephrology Specialty College.

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3 thoughts on “Pictures: Syphilis – All stages [Warning: Strong Images]”

    • Amos, in order to treat your syphilis, you need to be evaluated by a doctor. Syphilis treatment is very simple and the success rate is high.

      Reply