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What Happens To Your Body When You Die Of Syphilis

Updated September 23, 2021 150.7k views13 items

If you ever want to be able to have sex again, turn back now because you’ll never be able to look at another human being again without picturing them as a walking disease factory after reading all of these facts about dying from syphilis.

It’s true that most people who are infected with syphilis don’t actually die from the disease - people who are regularly tested for STDs can nip the disease in the bud before the worst symptoms begin to appear. Death from syphilis is rare and only occurs in about 15%-20% of the people who contract the illness, but it does happen – mostly to people who ignore their symptoms and try to live through the years of excruciating pain. And if you aren’t regularly tested, you could be suffering from syphilis and not even know.

Can you die from syphilis? Yes, you can. But that’s not the worst part - when syphilis kills, it rarely does so quickly. This particular STD prefers to take its time, weaving its way through your immune system, making your symptoms flair up and disappear, and rarely striking someone the same way twice. While syphilis can deteriorate your brain and internal functions over the course of 10 to 30 years, it’s more likely to give you a body full of ulcers and might even make you go blind. Syphilis, like the human mind, is capable of anything. Keep reading to find out all the fun and disgusting ways that syphilis can wreck your life. 

  • Photo: Jorbasa / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    Your Brain Is Slowly Eaten Alive

    In later stages of the disease, syphilis has been known to attack all of the vital organs, including the brain. Some victims have been left in a vegetative state, while others - like crime lord Al Capone - suffered the fate of completely losing their personalities and essentially becoming Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

    Capone contracted syphilis when he was 18, but ignored the disease, allowing it to ravage his body and brain. By the time he was interned at Alcatraz, he was barely the same person who had run one of the largest crime syndicates of the 20th century. Prisoners and workers at the island jail noted that Capone would spend most of his time cowering in his cell and talking to himself like a baby. 

    After he was finally released from prison Capone spent the majority of his final years in an estate near Miami casting a fishing pole into his swimming pool, hoping to catch something. He eventually died from complications related to a brain hemorrhage.

  • Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    The Cartilage In Your Nose Disintigrates

    ...Maybe. Syphilis is the Bo Jackson of STDs, meaning that it can pretty much do whatever it wants. One strange symptom of syphilis is the giant hole that's left in your face where the disease has eaten away the flesh and cartilage of the nose. It's now known as saddle-nose deformity, and it mostly appears in victims of congenital syphilis (the syphilis you're born with). In sixteenth-century Europe, the syphilitic nose became a mark of shame, a visible sign of the moral and bodily corruption that stigmatized its unfortunate victims.

  • Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    Strange Lumps Appear On Your Body

    One symptom that can occur years after the contraction of syphilis is a series of painless lumps that appear across the body. Unfortunately, the lumps don't stay painless for long - left untreated, they can quickly become scabbed over and secrete a nasty pus that makes every day life an excruciating hurdle. In 2015, a 38 year old man in China finally went to his doctor years after catching the disease and became a marvel of modern medicine when he was put into immediate treatment, curing the ulcers and leaving gaping holes in his body. 

  • Photo: DeveionPhotography / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    You Could Become Paralyzed

    One of the scariest things to think about is the possibility of being totally paralyzed and unable to communicate with our loved ones. Most people who suffer from syphilis-related paralysis get that way because they refused to seek treatment and found themselves locked into the later stages of the disease. 

    The largest outbreak of syphilitic paralysis occurred in the Victorian era when hundreds of people (mostly men in their 30s and 40s) received the diagnosis of general paralysis of the insane. In the 19th century, no one wanted to admit that syphilis was the cause of the paralysis, but in 1905 doctors finally came to the conclusion that what they were seeing was untreated syphilis that had attacked the brain and rendered its victims utterly helpless.