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How long can a person have Syphilis and not be aware of it?

Dear Ask The Doctor:
How long can a person have syphilis without knowing that they have it? Can a person have this disease for 20 years and not have any signs or symptoms of it? Can a person who does not have symptoms still spread this?


Syphilis is a long term disease if not treated. It is a sexually transmitted infection and usually will present with symptoms of primary syphilis ie presence of sores or chancres in the genital area. This if not treated can lead to secondary syphylis which wil present as a genralised rash on thebody especially over the palms and soles. This if not treated can either progress to latent syphilis ie the infection remains dormant in the body but one can still transmit the same or it may progress to tertiary syphilis which affects various parts of the body. Thus the initial presentation will be with symptoms. If you have engaged in high risk behaviour then it is highly advisable to get your self checked up for syphilis as there is treatment for the same. All the best.

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