Secondary syphilis and hair loss

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. It has been around for a very long time but is still very much a problem today. It is linked to a bacterium called Treponema pallidum or pale treponema. Hair loss is one of the symptoms that can be observed during the evolution of the disease. What are its characteristics? How should it be managed? We take a closer look.



Hair loss, a symptom of secondary syphilis

Syphilis is one of the causes of localized hair loss.
This highly contagious infectious disease has 4 progressive stages:

  • Primary syphilis: an ulcer (chancre) forms where the bacteria entered the body (genitals, anus). It is highly contagious and can go unnoticed depending on where it is located because it is not painful.
  • Secondary syphilis: if the primary form is not treated, the secondary form develops. The bacteria spreads throughout the body through the bloodstream and causes a rash to appear, especially on the hands and feet. It is at this stage that patchy alopecia may also appear. Syphilis hair loss is not characteristic and can be confused with another type of hair loss, such as spot baldness. This complicates the diagnosis. In addition, these symptoms are fluctuating: they disappear spontaneously without treatment in a few weeks and may reappear and then disappear again for 1 or 2 years.
  • Latent syphilis: phase during which there are no more symptoms.
  • Tertiary syphilis: without treatment, more serious lesions develop in some affected individuals, with damage to the brain, bones, heart or nervous system.

What treatment is there for syphilis-related hair loss?

The treatment of secondary syphilis hair loss involves treating the primary cause, which is the bacterial infection. As soon as the diagnosis of syphilis is established, an antibiotic treatment with penicillin or doxycycline is started. The hair will then grow back completely within 3 to 6 months.

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