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Syphilis: Gummata

Topic Overview

Gummata are growths of pink, fleshy tissue that contain syphilis bacteria. They may appear as nodules or ulcers or become masses that are like tumors. Gummata are rare. When they do occur, they range from 1 mm to 1 cm in size. Common sites of gummata include the:

  • Skin, where they cause shallow open sores that heal slowly.
  • Mucous membranes. These gummas may become cancerous.
  • Bones, where they cause destruction of bones and pain that is especially severe at night.
  • Eyes, resulting in visual impairment that may lead to blindness.
  • Respiratory system, where they cause hoarseness, breathing problems, and wheezing.
  • Gastrointestinal system, where they cause stomach pain, inability to eat large meals, belching, and weight loss.

Antibiotic treatment cures the syphilis infection and stops the development of gummata. But the scar tissue that forms after successful treatment will probably not go away.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Devika Singh, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease
Last Revised September 29, 2011

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