The secondary stage of syphilis starts 2 to 10 weeks after the chancre sore appears. Common secondary symptoms can include:
- Skin rash with rough, red or reddish-brown spots both on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. The rash usually does not itch. Rashes with a different appearance may occur on other parts of the body.
- Sores on the throat, mouth, or cervix.
- Sore throat and swollen lymph glands.
- Headaches and muscle aches.
- Patchy hair loss on the head and other parts of the body.
- Weight loss.
These symptoms of secondary syphilis may be mild. However, the lesions associated with this stage contain syphilis bacteria. During vaginal, anal, or oral sex, contact with open sores with the rash can spread the infection to others.
The symptoms of secondary syphilis will resolve with or without treatment. Without syphilis treatment, however, the infection will progress to the latent and late stages of the disease. A person can also have recurrences of secondary syphilis symptoms.
The latent (hidden) stage of syphilis begins when secondary syphilis symptoms end. This stage can begin anywhere from 2 years to over 30 years after the initial infection.
In early latent syphilis, you may not have syphilis symptoms, but the infection remains in your body. When you are in this stage, you can infect a sexual partner.
In late latent syphilis, the infection is quiet and the risk of infecting a sexual partner is low or absent. If you don't get treated for latent syphilis, you will progress to tertiary syphilis, the most serious stage of the disease.