Man looking in mirror to check hair loss from syphilis infection

Understanding the Relationship Between Syphilis and Hair Loss

Written on November 27, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Hair loss is a common concern that affects people for various reasons. However, there are cases where hair loss can be indicative of an underlying health condition that may require further investigation.

If you are experiencing hair loss, syphilis shouldn’t be your first thought when it comes to finding an explanation. That said, paying attention to symptoms and changes in and on your body can be very helpful in tracking your overall health and well-being and catching any illnesses or conditions early. In this article, we will explore hair loss and its relationship with syphilis.

Understanding Hair Loss

Most of us have about 100,000 hairs on our scalps, and it is normal for a person to lose about 100 hairs per day. People assigned male and people assigned female at birth can all be affected by hereditary hair loss. Additionally, as we age, all people experience changes in hair texture and thickness due to changes in the hormone testosterone.[1]

If you notice spots where your hair is thinning, bald patches, or other changes in your hair, consider the following causes of hair loss. If you are concerned, you can always speak to a healthcare professional.


You’ve likely heard the term “male pattern baldness.” While pattern baldness often affects those assigned male at birth more, it can also affect those who weren’t assigned male at birth. Pattern baldness can occur at any point following puberty, and about 80% of men exhibit at least some indications of pattern baldness by the time they reach the age of 70.[1]


Hair loss is just one more way that physical and emotional stress impacts the human body. Telogen effluvium, stress-related hair loss, may cause up to three-quarters of scalp hair to shed.[1]

You may notice more hair falling out when you brush, comb, or wash your hair, and while it’s often temporary, it can become chronic (ongoing).

Stress-related causes of hair loss include high fevers, severe infections, childbirth and pregnancy, menopause, severe emotional stress, dieting, and prescription or recreational drug use.

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Other Causes

According to experts from the University of Pennsylvania, causes that are not stress-related or genetic include but are not limited to:[1]

  • Alopecia areata
  • Anemia
  • Autoimmune conditions (ex: lupus)
  • Burns
  • Certain infectious diseases, such as syphilis
  • Excessive shampooing and blow-drying
  • Hormonal changes
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Nervous habits, such as continual hair pulling or scalp rubbing
  • Radiation therapy
  • Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp)
  • Tumors of the ovary or adrenal glands
  • Hairstyles that put too much tension on the hair follicles
  • Bacterial infections of the scalp

Understanding Syphilis and Syphilitic Hair Loss

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious health problems if left untreated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infection develops in stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with each stage having different signs and symptoms.[2]

Syphilis is either spread through direct contact with a syphilitic sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex or from a pregnant person to their offspring.

It is also curable. As noted above, syphilis infections have stages. During the first stage, you may notice one or more sores near or on the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, lips, or mouth. These sores often go away, but treatment must still be pursued to prevent progression to secondary-stage infection.

The second stage of syphilis infection is often when hair loss is often noted – this is sometimes referred to as syphilitic alopecia.

Treating Hair Loss as a Result of Syphilis

To treat syphilitic hair loss, the syphilis infection must be treated as the underlying cause. As soon as the diagnosis of syphilis is established, antibiotic treatment with either penicillin or doxycycline is started. The hair should then grow back within 3 to 6 months.[3]

Syphilis Diagnosis and Prevention

It is recommended that people who are sexually active get screened for sexually transmitted infections regularly (depending on the person). To test for syphilis, the CDC explains that most of the time, healthcare providers will use a blood test. Some will diagnose by testing fluid from a syphilis sore.[2]

You can also test at home with Everlywell’s at-home Syphilis Test. The test includes everything you need to collect a blood sample and send it to a lab for testing.

Can Syphilis Be Cured?

Gumma of Syphilis

Early Stage Syphilis Symptoms

Gillian Singer, MPH is a sexuality educator and public health professional, aiming to educate and use compassion and empathy to foster positive change and development. Professional interests include sexuality education, curriculum design and consulting, and sex technology.


  1. Hair Loss (Alopecia). Penn Medicine. Accessed November 11, 2023.
  2. STD facts - syphilis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 10, 2022. Accessed November 11, 2023.
  3. Secondary syphilis and hair loss. Ducray. February 10, 2023. Accessed November 11, 2023.
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