What is it?

Syphilis is a potentially life-threatening bacterium and cases of Syphilis infection are on the rise in the UK. It is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus or in the rectum. Congenital Syphilis in babies causes irreversible health problems or death in as many as 40% of all live babies born to women with an untreated infection.

Did you know…

Syphilis can give you heart and sight problems if left untreated? It is easily curable with antibiotics if you are tested and treated early enough.

What are the symptoms?

Many people who are infected with Syphilis do not have symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated.  They can also pass the infection on.

There are three stages of Syphilis infection: Primary, Secondary and Latent. Primary is marked by a sore that left untreated, progresses to the Secondary stage which includes rashes, fever, swollen glands, sore throat, hair loss, headaches, and muscle aches. The Latent stage progresses unknown to the carrier, eventually damaging internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints.

Syphilis testing

A small blood sample is needed for the test. Results are available the same day that your sample is received in the laboratory. At some Better2Know clinics you can have an instant test with results available in around 20 minutes.


Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics.  A prescription is available from your Better2Know doctor, you can go to your own GP following your test, or you can take your result to a sexual health centre.

Adverse consequences

An untreated case of Syphilis can be fatal.  There is an increased risk of contracting other STIs including HIV as the immune system is weaker.  So it is important to get tested regularly and to get the infection treated.

For pregnant women there can be further complications which may include miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths, or death of newborn babies. There is also risk of deformities, delays in development or seizures along with many other problems such as rash, fever, swollen liver and spleen, anaemia and jaundice. If it is undiagnosed in infants, it can cause damage to their bones, teeth, eyes, ears, and brain.