Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is among the most critical sexually transmitted infections due to its
If you’ve contracted syphilis, the good news is that this sexually transmitted disease (STD) is highly curable. Now for the bad news: If you don’t seek treatment promptly, syphilis can leave you with painful sores, hair loss, and symptoms that mimic the flu.
While hair loss due to syphilis isn’t dangerous, it can be inconvenient and embarrassing. If a doctor has treated you for syphilis, you may wonder, “Will my hair grow back after syphilis treatment?”
Thankfully, syphilis-related hair loss usually doesn’t last forever. In this guide, learn about why syphilis causes hair loss and when you can expect your hair to start growing back.
Before we talk about syphilis-related hair loss, it’s helpful to know what exactly syphilis is.
Syphilis is a bacterial STD that causes hair loss, sores, muscle aches, and a general feeling of malaise. Syphilis spreads through sexual contact. The syphilis bacterium, Treponema pallidum, causes infection when it enters the body through broken skin.
A doctor can diagnose syphilis with a 10-panel STD test, like the ones we offer here at Rapid STD Testing. Your doctor may also order a spinal tap so they can examine your spinal fluid for signs of the syphilis bacterium.
If blood tests come back positive, your doctor can treat you with antibiotics like penicillin. If you have medical conditions that make you allergic to penicillin, your doctor might give you doxycycline instead.
Stages of Syphilis
Syphilis has three main stages, plus a latent stage during which you may not notice any symptoms.
In the first stage of syphilis, you may see a small sore (called a chancre) around the area where the bacteria entered your body. This sore usually develops about three weeks after exposure, and it can take three to six weeks to heal. You may not notice the sore, especially if it’s hidden inside your rectum or vagina.
About four to eight weeks after the sore heals, you might start to feel like you’re coming down with the flu. Symptoms you may notice include fever, muscle pain, and a loss of appetite. Your hair could start to fall out around this time, too.
You may also develop wart-like sores around your mouth, vagina, or penis or a rash that covers your torso, hands, and feet. This rash generally isn’t itchy or painful.
Secondary syphilis symptoms can disappear after a few weeks. In some people, they go away and come back weeks or months later. This cycle can continue for up to a year.
After the secondary stage passes, syphilis symptoms may not crop up again for years. This is dangerous because some people may think they’ve been cured, so they don’t bother to see a doctor or get tested for an STD that causes cysts.
If syphilis remains untreated, it can eventually cause tumors to grow on your liver, bones, or skin. Tertiary syphilis can also damage your nervous system and heart, which can lead to heart valve disease or aneurysms.
The disease may spread to your brain, too. This is called neurosyphilis, which can sometimes mimic an autoimmune condition, such as autoimmune encephalitis. It can cause brain damage, early-onset dementia, and death.
Only 15% to 30% of people with untreated syphilis will develop complications like these. Still, even if you don’t notice symptoms now, you could develop them years later after the initial infection. Syphilis will not heal on its own, no matter how long you wait. This is why it’s so important to order a rapid STD test (such as a test from Rapid STD Testing) and see your doctor immediately if you test positive.
Hair Loss From Syphilis
Syphilis doesn’t cause hair loss right away. If you don’t treat the infection promptly, though, you may notice thinning or clumps of hair falling out in the shower. This can be very distressing, but fortunately, it’s rarely permanent.
Syphilis makes your hair fall out because it can cause lesions to grow on your head. These itchy lesions damage hair follicles and disrupt the hair growth cycle. If you can’t resist scratching the lesions, your hair may fall out even faster.
Can syphilis cause alopecia? Yes, and it’s called syphilitic alopecia. Only 3% to 7% of people with syphilis develop this type of hair loss, according to one 2022 study. But even though it’s rare, hair loss could be the only symptom of syphilis that some people have.
Syphilitic alopecia has two forms:
- Symptomatic: When your hair falls out due to lesions on your head, you have symptomatic syphilitic alopecia.
- Essential: Your hair may fall out even if you don’t have lesions on your head. If this happens, doctors call it essential syphilitic alopecia.
Syphilitic alopecia can mimic what’s called moth-eaten alopecia, which causes you to lose hair in a spotted pattern.
This condition can also cause hair to fall out in a diffuse pattern. This means that you might notice hair loss all over your head rather than in one particular place.
If you’re wondering, “Does chlamydia cause hair loss?” the answer is no. STDs known to cause hair loss include syphilis, HIV, pubic lice, and trichomoniasis.
Treating Syphilitic Alopecia
It’s a relief to know that syphilis is highly curable, but what about your hair loss? Will you need a hair transplant? Typically, your hair will begin growing back without any help from you or your doctor. If your hair is growing back slower than you’d like, you have a few treatment options.
Treatment of Syphilis
Before starting any hair regrowth program, see a doctor for syphilis treatment. Your hair will not regrow until you’ve cured the underlying syphilis infection.
If you catch the infection early on, a single shot of penicillin may be enough to cure you. In the later stages of infection, you may need treatment for up to three weeks.
Once your doctor verifies that you’re free of the syphilis bacteria, ask them about treatments that can help your hair grow back.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections
With this treatment, a doctor takes a sample of your blood and places it into a centrifuge to concentrate platelets within your plasma. Next, they’ll inject the platelets into your scalp to boost the hair growth process.
Plasma injections are a safe way to restore your hair because the treatment uses organic material from your own body. However, it can take a while for the treatment to work. You should notice improvement within six months.
Platelet-rich plasma injections work even better when paired with topical minoxidil. This solution works best for regrowing hair on your crown, and it can take three to six months to notice results.
You’ll find minoxidil in three forms: foam, liquid, or spray containing finasteride. Your dermatologist can help you pick the form that works best for you.
Minoxidil doesn’t usually cause side effects. Some people, though, can develop headaches, faintness, dizziness, and chest pain. If you have any of these symptoms, stop using minoxidil immediately and call your doctor.
Finasteride is a once-a-day pill that blocks your body’s production of DHT, a hormone that causes hair to fall out. As with minoxidil, it takes three to six months to regrow your hair on finasteride.
It’s safe to pair finasteride with minoxidil, and you can use it if you’re undergoing plasma injections too.
You might notice new or worsening depression, low libido, and erectile dysfunction while taking finasteride, although such side effects are rare.
If you’re a woman and minoxidil doesn’t seem to work for you, your doctor might suggest the anti-androgen drug spironolactone. Doctors may tell you to take this drug with birth control pills if you’re of childbearing age because spironolactone can cause birth defects if you get pregnant.
Iron supplements are another possible solution for women. Many women have low iron levels, especially if they’re vegetarians or have heavy periods.
Ask your doctor to test your iron levels before taking a supplement. If your iron levels are already high enough, taking more won’t help your hair loss. Excess iron can cause constipation and stomach aches, too.
Is Syphilis Hair Loss Permanent?
If you’re asking, “Will my hair grow back after syphilis treatment?” the answer is usually yes. Once your body has recovered from syphilis, your hair should start to grow back within three to six months. Sometimes, though, your hair won’t begin regrowing until you’ve lost all your remaining hair.
Does syphilis cause permanent hair loss? In very rare cases, your hair might not ever grow back. This can happen if syphilis has done serious damage to your hair follicles.
Preventing Syphilitic Alopecia
The best way to prevent syphilitic alopecia is by not contracting syphilis in the first place. The only surefire way to avoid getting syphilis is to abstain from sexual contact, but of course, that’s simply not realistic for most people.
If you’re planning to have sex with a new partner, ask them whether they’ve been tested for STDs recently. If they say no, it’s smart to avoid sex with them until they’ve done so. It’s better to be safe now than sorry later.
Always use a condom or dental dam with your partner unless you’re monogamous and know for a fact that they’re STD-free. Condoms won’t entirely eliminate your risk of catching syphilis, but using one can lower your risk significantly.
If you use condoms with your partner, choose a condom that fits snugly (but not too tightly) to reduce the risk of breakage. If the condom breaks, immediately remove it and get a new one. Never use scissors or your teeth to open a condom wrapper; doing either can cause the condom to tear.
If your partner has syphilis, don’t have sex with them until they’ve finished their treatment and their doctor says they’re syphilis-free.
Avoid having sex with a partner if they have unexplained sores or a rash on or near their genitals.
If you have syphilis or other bacterial infections, tell your current and past sexual partners so they can get tested. Even if you treat the infection, it’s possible for someone to reinfect you if they don’t treat themselves.
Fast and Confidential STD Testing Near You
If you’re worried that you might have syphilis, order same-day STD testing right away. It’s never fun to find out you’ve got an STD, but the sooner you know, the faster you can head to your doctor for treatment. And if you’re wondering, “Will my hair grow back after syphilis treatment?” the answer is usually yes.
Rapid STD Testing makes it easy to order syphilis testing online. We also offer on-demand STD testing that gives you results in just one to three days. Visit one of our testing clinics near you, and take control of your sexual health.