Syphilis is a Sexually Transmitted bacterial Infection (STI) caused by Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can spread through sexual contact or from mother to child during pregnancy. If left untreated, it can cause severe damage to major organs a like brain, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints and can be life threatening.

How common is Syphilis?

Every year, around the world, 10 million new cases are reported. In recent years, Syphilis has become more common in developed countries, especially among people who have unprotected sex.

How can I catch Syphilis?

Syphilis is passed from one person to another by direct contact with a Syphilis sore (Chancre) during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be passed during pregnancy from the mother to the unborn child. It cannot be passed through sharing clothing, swimming pools, toilet seats or eating utensils.

Can I catch Syphilis without being sexually active?

Syphilis is mostly caught through unprotected sexual activity including oral, anal, and vaginal contact with someone who has the infection. However, it can also pass through non-sexual contact including:

  • Mother-to-child during pregnancy

  • Organ or skin transplants

  • Blood transfusions

  • Healthcare workers

What are the signs and symptoms of Syphilis?

A Syphilis infection progresses through four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary, and the signs and symptoms can vary depending on the stage of the infection. Syphilis symptoms for the primary stage usually occur 10 days to 3 months after being exposed to the Syphilis infection. Primary Stage symptoms include:

  • Painless sores or chancre (mouth, anus, genitals)

  • Enlarged lymph nodes at the site of infection.

Syphilis symptoms for the secondary stage appears about 2-10 weeks after the primary symptoms. Secondary stage symptoms include:

Skin rash on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet

Sores in the mouth, anus, or vagina

  • Sore throat

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle aches

  • Headaches

  • Swollen glands

If Syphilis is left untreated at this stage, the symptoms may disappear and the disease progresses to the latent stage where the infection remains latent or dormant for years, however, the bacteria remain alive in your body.

Tertiary-stage Syphilis may cause severe, life-threatening health issues including:

  • Blindness

  • Deafness

  • Dementia

  • Bone damage

  • Damage to the nervous system

  • Heart problems

  • Stroke

When should I get tested for Syphilis?

Syphilis at its early stages can easily go undetected. The symptoms of the secondary stage are also like those of other illnesses. You should be tested for Syphilis if have had unprotected sex with multiple people, or sex with someone who might have had Syphilis if you are a man who has sex with men, are a sex worker, or are pregnant. You may wish to take this test before having sex with a new partner.

How do I get tested for Syphilis?

Take charge of your sexual health with Better2Know tests. Testing with Better2Know is fast, simple, and painless. Syphilis is normally tested for by a blood sample. Sometimes it may also be detected by examining the body fluid samples or with a swab of any visible sore or Chancre. If your doctor suspects you have a Syphilis infection that has entered into your central nervous system, then a sample of cerebrospinal fluid through a lumbar puncture may also collected.

You can book a test today with Better2Know by calling our Sexual Health Advisory team on the number above or online by clicking the Get Started button.

What are the risks if Syphilis is left untreated?

If syphilis is not treated, it can harm different parts of your body and cause damage to your major organs. This can be life-threatening and may even lead to death. The risks associated with untreated Syphilis can vary depending on the stage of the infection, but may include:

  • Primary Syphilis: Symptoms may include painless sores or ulcers

  • Secondary Syphilis: Flu-like symptoms (fever, rash, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue)

  • Latent Syphilis: No symptoms. However, the infection can still cause damage to organs such as the brain, heart, and nervous system.

  • Tertiary Syphilis: Blindness, deafness, heart disease, and even death.

How can Syphilis affect a pregnant person and their baby?

Syphilis can harm the health of both pregnant women and their babies. During pregnancy, it can be passed from the mother to their babies through the placenta. Your baby can also be infected with syphilis during delivery if they pass over a Syphilis sore. Pregnant women who have a syphilis infection have high rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, and even infant death.

Pregnant people need to get tested for syphilis during their pregnancy so that they can receive timely treatment and protect the health of their baby.

What do I do if I test positive for Syphilis?

Syphilis can be treated with a course of antibiotics. If you receive a positive test result, Better2Know will arrange a consultation with one of our doctors who will talk you through your treatment options. Please phone the number at the top of the page and we will help you get the medical treatment you require. If you would prefer to speak to your doctor, we will help you get all your test results to them to make your experience as smooth as possible. During your treatment for Syphilis, you can infect others through unprotected sex even after symptoms have disappeared. You should not have sex until your treatment is completed.

It is recommended to have a repeat test at the end of your treatment to check the medication has worked. You should contact previous sexual partners so they can also get tested and help prevent the spread of the infection. Remember that Better2Know offers all our patients access to our unique Partner Notification tool, enabling you to anonymously inform anyone who needs to know that they may have been exposed to an STI.

How is Syphilis treated?

Syphilis treatment at the early stage involves a single antibiotic injection or a course of oral antibiotics. The type and duration of antibiotic treatment depend on the stage of the Syphilis infection. People may need to receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics at later stages if the infection has affected the brain or spinal cord. If this is the case your doctor will advise you on the right medicine to take for your infection. At Better2Know we can arrange a private doctor’s appointment. If you prefer you can consult a doctor of your choice.

Can Syphilis come back?

It is recommended that you re-test for Syphilis 2 weeks after finishing your treatment. This is to check that the infection has completely cleared.

As Syphilis can be caught more than once it is important to reduce your risk of repeat infection. It is also important to let your previous sexual partners know, so they can get tested too. To reduce your risk of a repeat infection you should use condoms every time you have sex, don’t have sex with anyone with symptoms of Syphilis, and ask your partners to get tested. If you think you have been reinfected, you should retest for Syphilis.

When can I have sex again after being treated for Syphilis?

You should not have sex until your treatment is finished, even if you have no symptoms. This is to prevent you from infecting your sexual partner(s) with Syphilis.

How do I book a Syphilis test?

Better2Know is the world’s leading provider of private sexual health testing services. We provide you with fast and accurate testing to give you peace of mind.

You can book a test today with Better2Know by calling our Sexual Health Advisory team on the number above. Our expert Patient Services staff will help you select the right test and book any follow-up appointments if requested. If you prefer to book your test online, you can do so by clicking the Get Started button above.

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