Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). There are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.
You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.
Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with different signs and symptoms associated with each stage. A person with primary syphilis generally has a sore or sores at the original site of infection. These sores usually occur on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. These sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Symptoms of secondary syphilis include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The signs and symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis can be mild, and they might not be noticed. During the latent stage, there are no signs or symptoms. Tertiary syphilis is associated with severe medical problems. A doctor can usually diagnose tertiary syphilis with the help of multiple tests. It can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting syphilis:
Any sexually active person can get syphilis through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit.
You should get tested regularly for syphilis if you are sexually active and:
Most of the time, a blood test is used to test for syphilis. Some health care providers will diagnose syphilis by testing fluid from a syphilis sore.
Yes, syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. Having syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again. Even after you’ve been successfully treated, you can still be re-infected. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether you have syphilis. Follow-up testing by your health care provider is recommended to make sure that your treatment was successful.
It may not be obvious that a sexual partner has syphilis. This is because syphilis sores can be hidden in the vagina, anus, under the foreskin of the penis, or in the mouth. Unless you know that your sexual partner(s) has been tested and treated, you may be at risk of getting syphilis again from an infected sexual partner.