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Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is a bacterial infection. Having syphilis can increase your risk for getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It can also increase your risk of giving HIV to other people. Left untreated, syphilis can cause heart and brain damage. It can also lead to death. Pregnant women who have syphilis can infect their unborn babies. This can lead to deformities or even the baby’s death.

Syphilis on the rise

Syphilis rates are increasing in every part of the U.S. Health experts are particularly concerned about:

  • Continued high rates among gay and bisexual men
  • The increase in babies born with the disease (congenital syphilis)

Syphilis stages and symptoms

Syphilis gets worse in stages. The symptoms in each stage may be very mild. You may not even notice them.

  • Stage 1: A painless sore on the genitals, anal skin, or mouth. The sore goes away in 3 to 6 weeks.
  • Stage 2: A rash, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, extreme tiredness (fatigue), and other flu-like symptoms. These symptoms often are severe enough that the person gets medical care. If they are mild, or not brought to attention, they will also go away over time. But the infection is still there. You may have no other symptoms until serious problems occur.
  • Stage 3: Severe diseases. These often occur years or even decades later. They can include paralysis, a change for the worse in your mental state, damage to internal organs, blindness, or death.

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