Answers to some common questions about syphilis:
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. It can infect the vagina, anus, urethra (the opening urine passes through), or penis, as well as the lips and mouth.
Often, syphilis has no symptoms or has such mild symptoms that a person doesn't notice them.
In the first phase of syphilis, a person develops a small painless sore, called a chancre, where the bacteria first entered the body (such as the vagina, penis, or anus). The chancre sore may heal on its own without treatment. Even if the sore heals, the infection can remain in the body doing damage until it's treated with antibiotics.
Other symptoms often appear three to six weeks after the sores appear. These syphilis symptoms, which may come and go for up to two years, include body rashes that last several weeks (often on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet), mild fever, fatigue, sore throat, hair loss, weight loss, swollen glands, headache, and muscle pains.
Long-term damage from syphilis can include serious damage to the nervous system, heart, brain, or other organs, and death may result. This can occur 1 to 20 years after the start of the infection.
Yes. The early stages of syphilis are easy to treat. If you have syphilis, you will need to take an antibiotic. Your partner(s) may also be treated at the same time.
Keep in mind that any damage caused by syphilis in the later stages cannot be undone. If you are at risk for syphilis, regular testing will help you catch the infection at its earliest, most treatable phase.
A syphilis screening involves a blood test, which we can do for you at one of our Project STAY Clinics.
Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics if it is found early. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the brain, the heart, and other major organs of the body and lead to very serious health consequences.
Syphilis is spread by contact with syphilis sores. Direct contact can occur during vaginal and anal intercourse, oral sex and much less commonly kissing.
Syphilis is especially contagious in the early stage of the disease, when sores are present. The liquid that oozes from them is very infectious.