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Syphilis - tertiary

  • Definition

    Tertiary syphilis is a late phase of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis, caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum.


    Alternative Names

    Late syphilis; Tertiary syphilis


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Syphilis is a sexually transmitted, infectious disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum.

    Syphilis has three main stages:

    • Primary syphilis
    • Secondary syphilis
    • Tertiary syphilis

    This article focuses on tertiary syphilis. Tertiary syphilis can follow the initial infection (primary syphilis) by 3 to 15 years.

    In tertiary syphilis, the infection-causing organisms have continued to grow for years. Pockets of damage, or lesions, affects various tissues such as the bones, skin, nervous tissue, heart, and arteries. These areas are called gummas, and are very destructive.

    Tertiary syphilis is less frequently seen today than in the past because of early detection and adequate treatment.