Top 10 Historical Figures With Syphilis!

Painters, composers and genocidal maniacs – it takes all sorts to die of syphilis! In fact, about 15% of the earth’s population in the 19th century contracted the dreaded venereal disease at some point in their lives.

These days a positive STD test would lead to treatment for this curable disease but for many who contracted the disease in those days it could prove deadly. Here are the ten most famous historical characters suspected to have suffered from the sexually transmitted disease.

10 – Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin, known as the ‘King of Ragtime’, wrote the famous piece of music ‘The Entertainer’. However, Joplin’s final hours would have been far from entertaining – he died in a mental institution suffering from the physical and mental influences of syphilis.

9 – Casanova

Casanova used a condom made out of sheep’s gut and tied on with a tasteful pink ribbon. However, the sexually prolific Venetian adventurer and author wasn’t as careful as he could have been and, as a result, suffered frequent bouts of venereal diseases including syphilis.

8 – Tolstoy

The Russian literary giant, author of ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ Leo Tolstoy suffered from syphilis during his youth, which was cured using arsenic treatment. In his novels, Tolstoy vividly examined the relationship between life and death.

7 – Ivan the Terrible 

Ivan’s sexual promiscuity with both sexes, his last illness and many features of his personality support a diagnosis of syphilis. It was often ‘treated’ with mercury and he died of mercury poisoning. However, it cannot be determined if Ivan’s terrible problems were physical or psychological, and with anonymous STD testing yet to be invented in Ivan’s era we may never find out the truth.

6 – Nietzsche 

Friedrich Nietzsche was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and philologist who had a major influence on philosophy, particularly in existentialism and postmodernism. A popular, though hotly disputed, story about Nietzsche is that he went insane after being infected with syphilis.

5 – Mussolini

Benito Mussolini exploited a grenade wound in the First World War to cover up syphilis, according to research which would explain the Italian dictator’s uncharacteristic refusal to boast about his heroism at the front. The syphilis theory fits with rumours which circulated in Italy during his rule – and his chronic gastric problems, a symptom of the sexually transmitted disease.

4 – Henry VIII

The gradual mental deterioration and paranoia which Henry VIII developed as he grew older was possibly the result of late stage syphilis. However, This well known theory was probably first promoted about 100 years after his death.

3 Beethoven

Whether Beethoven actually had syphilis has been debated for decades. Since anonymous STD testing was not available at that time we probably won’t find out. However, the composer was known to associate with prostitutes, and propagators of the theory often claim that the disease is what caused him to become deaf.

2 – Hitler

Adolf Hitler’s tremors and irregular heartbeat during the last years of his life could have been symptoms of late stage syphilis, which would mean he had had the sexually transmitted disease for many years. His many symptoms included encephalitis, dizziness, neck pustules, chest pain, an accentuated heartbeat and frequent paranoid rages.

1 – Shakespeare

After a close examination of William Shakespeare’s writings, the Infectious Diseases Society of America published an article suggesting that Shakespeare most probably had syphilis, and that his sickness could possibly explain several events in his later years.

Syphilis And The Pope

Syphilis is a common and well known sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sexual intercoarse is the most common of 3 possible ways to contract it. If it is not transmitted sexually, it is possible, but rare, to get an infection through direct contact. Your body will also accept the disease from your birth mother. This is called congenital syphilis.

Many historic figures have suffered from syphilis, including Pope Alexander VI, Christopher Columbus, King Henry VIII and five of his wives, Francis I of France, Ivan the Terrible, Queen Elizabeth I, King Edward VI, Napoleon I of France, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Al Capone. As you can see, syphilis dates a long way back.

Known to many as “Syphilis – The Great Imitator” [], syphilis is a very difficult disease to diagnose. It is very often confused with other sexual diseases. There is a reported 35,000 cases of syphilis each year, 60% being male. Sadly, syphilis can take the life of its victims if it is left untreated. it can also result in damage to the heart, brain, and nerves. To treat the STD, there are two options; daily pills (this is the least effective method) or penicillin. For treatment, a half dose of penicillin is injected into each buttock. This is extremely painful, so procaine is added for some relief.

Syphilis can be atrocious or mild, but either way, you do not want it. If you are uncertain, get checked anyways, it could be the difference between life and death.

Syphilis Testing – Why It Is Important to Test for Syphilis

Syphilis testing is important because it is easily spread and can be fatal, but can also be cured. Test for syphilis in order to take first step toward getting fast treatment.

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because it is most commonly spread through sexual contact. It is a bacterium that can cause serious health problems or even death if left untreated.

It lives in the body and has four (4) stages – primary, secondary, latent, and late. In its final stages, it can be fatal. Since it is a bacterium and not a virus, it can be cured with antibiotics in its early stages. Most doctors recommend penicillin. Other antibiotics can be prescribed for those that are allergic to penicillin. Syphilis testing with a blood sample is the only way to diagnose the infection.

How is it transmitted?

Most commonly, it is transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. People get it by coming in direct contact with a syphilis sore during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It can also be passed during kissing if contact is made with an open sore. These sores can be located on the penis or in the vagina, mouth, or anus.

Sex is not the only way to contract this disease. A pregnant mother can pass it on to her children during childbirth causing the children to be infected.

It is recommended that all people who are sexually active get syphilis testing annually, and with every new partner. It is also recommended that expectant mothers test for syphilis during their pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of syphilis?

Many times people with syphilis will show symptoms but sometimes they will not. If symptoms are present, they will show up differently depending on the stage of the infection.

1) Primary – This stage occurs about 3 weeks after infection. During this time people may develop a small sore in the area where the bacteria entered the body. It can be located in or on the penis, vagina, anus, or mouth. Most people only get one sore, but it is possible to have several. It is usually painless and goes away in a few weeks. Many times it goes unnoticed.

2) Secondary – A few weeks after the first sore heals, a rash may develop. It starts on the body’s core (the area that covers the abdomen, sides, and back) and eventually spreads to the entire body, including the hands and feet. Sores may also develop in the mouth or genital area. The rash is usually not itchy and may be also come with flu like symptoms including fever, a sore throat, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms may disappear in a few weeks, or they may come and go over the course of a year. Even if they do go away, it is important to test for syphilis.

3) Latent – This is when the syphilis infection is not treated and the above symptoms disappear. The bacteria is still living and thriving in the body at this time and can lie dormant (show no indications) for years.

4) Late – At this time, the bacteria can eat away at a person’s brain, organs, nerves, bones, and joints. This stage is when it becomes fatal.

This disease may or may not have indications. Syphilis testing tells a person if they are infected or not.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting any STD, including syphilis. Practicing abstinence (not having sex at all) is the only way to avoid this risk completely.

An easy way to lower the risk is to properly use condoms during every sexual encounter. However although this can lower the risk, depending on where they are located, syphilis sores may not always be avoided by using a condom.

Research shows that those who engage in unprotected sex, those who have multiple partners, men who have sex with men (MSM), and those who are HIV positive are at an increased risk. Conversely, contracting syphilis also increases the risk of contracting HIV. It is smart to get tested for both.

Why is testing so important?

Syphilis testing is so important because when it is properly treated, it can be cured. If it is not treated, it can kill. Many times people do not know they are infected. Symptoms may not be present, or they may be inadvertently ignored.

It is recommended that everyone who is sexually active get a test for syphilis every year and with every new partner. Knowing your STD status and the STD status of your partner will help to reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

Where can I get a test?

There are thousands of local STD testing centers all over the U.S. offering STD testing for chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and syphilis. Syphilis testing can be ordered alone. However, physicians recommend getting a full panel STD test that includes all of them.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Stages of Syphilis

Most people who have contracted syphilis will be aware of it as there will be sores present. It is passed from one person to another when there is contact made with these sores. The main way the transmission occurs is through sexual contact. It can also be picked up by kissing. Syphilis is a particularly horrible STD as it can also be passed to a child if the mother is infected while she is pregnant.

How common is this disease?

As it is estimated, there are more than 12 million cases each year. As a result there are more cases being caught early and treated. The UK has not avoided cases of syphilis although in comparison to many countries it is not as prolific. The good news is that syphilis can be treated successfully as long as it is detected at an early stage. All that is needed are antibiotics and it is for this reason that an STD test should be taken. Failure to identify and treat syphilis can cause serious health issues. These include the following:paralysis, stroke or blindness. It could cause death as well.There are four recognized stages when syphilis is developing and the longer it is left the harder it will be to treat.

Primary stage – A sore will appear and this will normally be around the genitals. It will be invisible and during this time the sufferer will be contagious. They will however not be aware of their status and may spread it to a number of people. This stage will take between three weeks and three months for it to become clear that there is a problem. For men the sore will appear on the penis and for women it will be around the vagina. Sometimes the sores develop in the reproductive organs rather than on the outside where they can be detected. It takes about 3 to 6 weeks for the sores to heal but the infection is still there and can still be passed on.

Stage 2 – The rash is now visible and spreads around the body appearing as pus filled spots. The symptoms now will be weakness, weight loss, fever, hair loss, swollen lymph nodes and irregular pupils. Again the spots will go but the infection is still there.

Stage 3 – It could now appear that the syphilis has gone as there are no signs but this stage is dangerous as organ damage could occur. This could take a year or 20 years and over this time the symptoms can appear and disappear.

Tertiary stage- This is when heart problems start along with blindness and mental problems. The sores will be much more noticeable and by now it could be too late for treatment. But if one can acknowledge that they have a problem and get treatment, the worst could be avoided.

With syphilis the STD tests vary but they are mostly blood tests. They can be bought for use at home. Spinal fluid can also be tested but this has to be carried out by a doctor.