Society Of Syphilitics
S.O.S. • Box 3075 • Main Post Office • Vancouver • BC • V6B.3X6 • CA

Welcome to the
Society Of Syphilitics!

Site last updated: August 11, 2015

What is S.O.S.?

The Society Of Syphilitics (S.O.S.) is dedicated to those of us who may have syphilis. If you have been diagnosed with syphilis, or have tested positive for syphilis, or have been treated for syphilis (successfully or possibly unsuccessfully), or if you suspect that you have syphilis but your test results are negative (even repeatedly) then you need to find out more this disease.

The S.O.S. aims to help us better understand the vast range of effects of living with syphilis (and of syphilis treatments), so that we may learn ways to possibly survive them.

Much of what people think they know about syphilis is wrong. Syphilis is often hard to detect and symptoms are not always obvious. Standard syphilis tests can be unreliable, and negative test results do not mean for certain that you don't have syphilis. What's more, syphilis is not always easily cured — especially if the disease is not treated soon after you first catch it. Even standard penicillin treatments for primary syphilis can sometimes be inadequate. Your symptoms may disappear and your follow-up tests may suggest that you are no longer infected, but then syphilis can sometimes resurface many years later.

Not everyone suffers the same consequences from living with undetected syphilis. Syphilis cases can vary wildly, often they are as different as the people who have it. For some, late-stage syphilis can make you go bald, blind or deaf, become crazy or temporarily partly paralyzed — and eventually die. For others, syphilis may only cause you a lifetime of mysterious chronic health problems. Syphilis breaks some of the rules all of the time. It can often look just like any one of a variety of other illnesses. For this reason, syphilis has been dubbed "The Great Pretender."

  • "He who knows syphilis knows medicine: The return of an old friend," British Journal of Cardiology. Michael Rayment, Ann K Sullivan, April 2011, Volume 18, Issue 2 (pp. 56-58)
    "Secondary syphilis, a multi-system disorder seen within six months of acquisition of treponemal infection, may persist or recur over weeks or months, and may present to all types of clinician. The number of cases of 'other acquired syphilis' reported by GUM clinics to the HPA annually has stage also risen, albeit less dramatically than that observed in infectious syphilis — from 1,076 cases in 1999, to 1,872 cases in 2007 — constituting a 174% increase (English data only). This category comprises cases of late latent syphilis (asymptomatic infections thought to have been acquired more than two years prior to the point of diagnosis) and all cases of tertiary syphilis. This latter subcategory may be subject to under-reporting, as many cases of tertiary syphilis are likely to present to non-GUM physicians and be handled beyond the confines of the GUM service. Data are not available on the clinical types of tertiary syphilis observed. …"
  • "Oral Syphilis: A Series of 5 Cases," Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Hertel et al, Feb. 2014 (pp. 338-345) American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
    "Because of the increasing prevalence in Europe during the past few years, dentists could be confronted with patients with oral manifestations of syphilis. Because oral lesions are highly contagious, it is vital to make the correct diagnosis quickly to initiate the proper therapy and to interrupt the chain of infection. We present the cases of 5 patients with syphilis-related oral lesions. These cases are representative because of their clinical presentation, age, and gender distribution and the diagnostic approach. The aim of the present report is to emphasize the importance of the dentist knowing and identifying syphilis in different stages to diagnose the disease and institute treatment at an early stage…"
  • "Syphilis Chapter, Canadian Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections 2008 revised," Letter from Public Health Agency Canada, June 2010.
    (PDF: RevisedSyphilis2010-En.pdf)
    Please replace any previous versions of the syphilis chapter with the revised version posted on the Public Health Agency of Canada website at:
  • The Story of Patient X: One man's journey through the medical system to discover that he is a victim of syphilis
  • Clinical Photos of Patient X Photos by Dr. Harvey Lui, Head of Dermatology, University of British Columbia (November 18, 2004)
  • "Syphilis Screening Tests
    Describes in some detail the various current blood-screening tests used for detecting syphilis and their relative effectiveness.
  • "Syphilis Research & Resources
    A listing of syphilis research and presentations that include information related to later stages of syphilis.
  • "Part Two: Excesses – Cupid's Disease," The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales. Oliver Sacks, HarperPerennial, 1987, 1990 (pp. 102-107)
    "Yes, Cupid's Disease — syphilis, you know. I was in a brothel in Salonika, nearly seventy years ago. I caught syphilis…"

Recognizing Syphilis
(Treponema pallidum)

Primary Syphilis

Most often found on genitals, a primary syphilis lesion (painless ulcer) can occur anywhere you have been touched by a moist syphilis sore. Typically, only one lesion will erupt, within 10-90 days after contact. Skin on the surface of the lesion dies back and scabs, resulting in a well-rounded chancre with a hard base. Primary lesions are usually painless and often accompanied with swollen, but not tender, lymph glands. Symptoms clear up in a few weeks. If untreated, you remain infected, and eventually you have a secondary syphilis outbreak. Syphilis is usually treated with penicillin.

Primary Syphilis

Secondary Syphilis

Secondary syphilis typically shows itself with a general rash that starts on your trunk and torso, and eventually spreads to your palms and the soles of your feet. Called the "great mimic" (because its many possible symptoms look like those of other diseases) syphilis too often gets misdiagnosed. This psoriaform rash on the back of the head and neck is from secondary syphilis.

Secondary Syphilis

REFERENCE: Self-Learning Module on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Public Health Agency of Canada (Web:
PHOTOS: Boehringer-Ingelheim

Never ever give up!

created: Oct. 22, 2007
last modified: Aug. 11, 2015
S.O.S. S.O.S.
Box 3075, Main Post Office
Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6 CA