Primary Syphilis

About Primary Syphilis

Primary syphilis is the beginning phase of syphilis.  Syphilis is a very contagious sexually transmitted disease that has three phases, each progressively becoming worse.  The disease was very common in the 19th century before the development of penicillin as a cure for it. Historians and biographers believe the “God is dead” philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, acquired syphilis after losing his virginity to a prostitute.  Nietzsche’s madness in his old age is thought to have been the result of the final stage of syphilis.


Syphilis is spread through direct sexual contact with the lesion of someone one who has the disease.  Syphilis is particularly virulent so it can spread quite quickly.  In the first stage, primary syphilis, the disease will first manifest itself as a lesion at the spot where contact was made.  This usually means that the sufferer will notice a lesion on his or her genitals, anus, or mouth depending on the type of contact made during the sexual encounter with the carrier of the disease.

The lesion will usually heal by itself during primary syphilis and the patient may not notice any symptoms during the first few months of having the disease.  During this period, however, the disease is multiplying within the carrier.

Syphilis is a form of bacterial infection.  The bacteria in question has the scientific name of Treponema pallidum and is shaped like a spirochete— a spiral.


The treatment for syphilis is relatively simple, involving the prescription of a course of penicillin, or an equivalent drug for those who are allergic to penicillin.

Many patients however, will not come in during this early phase of the disease because they believe that nothing is seriously wrong with them.  They will often become latent carriers of the condition and continue to spread it to unsuspecting sex partners.


In this early phase, it is possible for the patient to feel sick, as if they were coming down with the flu, although this doesn’t really happen for most sufferers.  Primary syphilis often does not have any recognizable symptoms.  In secondary syphilis, however, this begins to change.  About three months after acquiring the bacteria, people will feel as if they have a scratch at their throat, their lymph nodes will be swollen; and they will occasionally have a fever.  However, one of the traumatizing symptoms of this disease is that the patient will get rashes and lesions not only on the genitals as in other sexually transmitted disease, but all over the body.  Hands might be covered with bumps or rashes.  The rashes do tend to be at their worse in warm wet areas of the body, so the genitals are likely to be an epicenter of activity.

Tertiary Syphilis

The final stage of syphilis, however, is its most damaging.  At this stage, the disease has become so widespread in the patient’s body that it begins to have gruesome effects, including neurological problems.


The patient’s body can no longer purge the disease, so it forms into granulomas in the body.  Often these growths will spread into different areas.  Some patients experience difficulty breathing, for example, as the disease has come to affect the respiratory system.  Other patients fall into madness like Nietzsche because the disease has come to affect their brain.  Such neurological cases might manifest more mildly at first, and the patient might seem to undergo a personality change or to have difficulties concentrating.  As the disease progresses, however so do the consequences of it.

Because of this latent period, many people are tested for syphilis before they marry to make sure they aren’t carriers.  However, anyone who is sexually active and should get himself or herself tested for syphilis before taking on a new sexual partner.  This should be routine part of maintaining sexual health, just as HIV and herpes tests are a common practice.