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Syphilis Rash

What is syphilis rash?

Syphilis rash is a symptom of the syphilis STD. It is a rash that can appear anywhere on the body. Its emergence indicates that syphilis has entered the body, progressed past its primary stage, and is now entering its secondary stage.

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When does it appear?

The rash appears 2 to 8 weeks after the initial syphilis infection. The initial stage of the syphilis rash is characterized by a round, painless bump called a chancre. Multiple chancres can appear, but typically there is only one. The rash can emerge while the chancre is still visible, or after the chancre has gone away.

How long does it stay?

The rash will go away on its own, but it can stay for 2 to 6 weeks at a time, and it may come and go for up to 2 years.

Why is it called secondary syphilis rash?

You may hear the term “secondary syphilis rash” because the appearance of the rash indicates that syphilis has entered into the secondary stage of its infection. In the secondary stage, the disease becomes systemic. This means that it begins to involve various organs and systems in the body. This is also why the rash can appear on any part of the body.

What does the rash look and feel like?

The rash is made up of small, red or reddish-brown bumps. The bumps typically feel rough to the touch, but they can sometimes be smooth. Unlike typical rashes, a syphilis rash is not itchy, and it can be very faint. This is why the rash may be hard to recognize and may not even be noticed at all.

Where does it occur?

The biggest indicator that any given rash is a syphilis rash is if the rash appears on the palms of the hands and/or soles of the feet. Though this is a typical symptom, the rash does not always appear there. The rash can occur all over the body or it can be centralized to one location. Additionally, the rash can come and go for up to 2 years and may appear in different locations each time it reemerges.

Is syphilis rash contagious?

The rash is a highly contagious vector for spreading syphilis. Worst of all: Because the rash can occur on the palms, syphilis can even be passed through casual contact, such as a handshake

Can other symptoms occur along with a rash?

The following symptoms may appear with, after, or instead of a syphilis rash. All of these symptoms mean that syphilis is in its secondary stage:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lesions in the mouth, throat, nostrils, vagina, anus, or any other mucous membrane

How can I treat the rash?

There is no way to cure the rash without treating the root cause. The rash will go away on its own, but syphilis will not without diagnosis and antibiotics.

What to do if you have a syphilis rash

If you think you have a syphilis rash, get tested. Don’t wait! After its secondary stage, syphilis enters into its latent stage, where the STD can lay dormant for decades. This may trick you into thinking that the syphilis has cleared up on its own, which is false.

The secondary stage is your last chance to catch syphilis before it can begin to severely affect other organs, including your brain. Getting treated early is the only way to prevent syphilis from causing irreversible damage. Get tested for syphilis.

  2. Dylewski, Joseph, and Minh Duong. "The Rash of Secondary Syphilis." Canadian Medical Association Journal, 33-35, 176, no. 1. doi:10.1503/cmaj.060665.

Medically Reviewed by on March 20, 2023

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