Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that presents itself with symptoms such as a sores, fever, weight loss and tiredness. Syphilis can be spread via oral, vaginal, and anal sex. When the disease is transmitted through oral-genital contact, it can manifest symptoms on the lips, gums, and tongue. It is not common to give or receive oral syphilis, and the symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses. Untreated syphilis can result in dangerous complications, including organ damage and death, and it is critical that any individuals suspicious of oral or traditional syphilis seek the advice of a health care professional.
The first stage of syphilis is characterized by an open sore known as a chancre. In oral syphilis the sore is located in the mouth—most commonly on the lip, and occasionally on the tongue. Although syphilis chancres are often painless and easy to overlook, the chancres can be painful and ulcerated. The sore is most likely to appear approximately three weeks after exposure, and will heal without treatment. Left untreated, oral syphilis will likely progress from stage one to stage two at this point.
Lesions and erosions in the mouth are commonly reported during the secondary stage of oral syphilis. There might also be headaches or a fever, and a rash that forms around the mouth. The reddish sores can spread around the face and scalp, and severe cases can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement from the facial lesions. Abnormal hair loss, swollen glands, and weight loss might also be observed.
When syphilis remains untreated, it progresses from the second stage to the latent stage, where symptoms disappear while the disease remains inside the body. From this point the infection can continue on to the late stage. The late stage of oral syphilis can lead to devastating complications such as organ damage, mental illness, blindness, and paralysis. Late stage syphilis can also result in death. For this reason, it is imperative that a person exposed to the disease, or engaging in behaviors that leave him or her at risk, be tested by a medical professional.
Treatment of oral syphilis in the early stages is generally simple and straightforward. The disease is caused by a bacteria and can be cured by antibiotics. The length of antibiotic therapy and the amount of prescribed drug will vary depending on the stage of the disease. If the infection has progressed to late stage, deterioration of the organs and body cannot be reversed. Treatment will prohibit the disease from causing further damage.