Know the basics
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexual transmitted infection (STI) disease (STD) caused by bacteria that can infect the skin, mouth, sex organs, and nervous system. If found early, syphilis is easy to cure and doesn’t cause any lasting damage. However, untreated syphilis can cause serious damage to the brain or nervous system and other organs, including the heart.
How common is syphilis?
Syphilis rates have been declining among women since 2010, but rising among men, particularly men who have sex with men.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of syphilis?
Syphilis has three stages:
Symptoms occur 2 to 4 weeks after infection and incluce a painless sore (chancre) where bacteria entered the body. This sore often occurs on genitals but can also be seen in the mouth or rectum if these parts were involved in sexual activity with the infected person. It usually heals on its own in 1 to 5 weeks.
If the infection is not treated, stage two symptoms begin 6 to 12 weeks, later. They include fever, headache, Joint pain, loss of appetite, rash (small, red scaly bumps on the penis, vagina, or mouth, and especially on palms and soles), sore throat, swollen lymth glands (armpit, groin, neck), and tiredness. This latent stage may last for years with no symptoms.
Stage 3 symptoms appear 10 to 40 years after the initial infection. They include brain and heart damage, memory problems, paralysis, and balance problem.
Some people with stage two or three syphilis may not have symptoms.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Call your doctor if you or your child experiences any unusual discharge, sore or rash-particularly if it occurs in the groin area. If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes syphilis?
The cause is a bacteria called Treponema pallidum. The infectiion is usually passed by sexual contact. Very rarely, bacteria can be passed through a break or cut in the skin, after a sore on a infected person is touched. Syphilis can’t be spread by using the same toilet, bathtub, clothing or eating utensils, or from doorknobs, swimming pools or hot tubs.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for syphilis?
Individuals infected with HIV appear to be more prone to contractiong and spreading syphilis. Having syphilis once does not make you immune to the infection. You can get it again. Transmission of syphilis can also occur from a pregnant women to her fetus (congenital syphilis).
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is syphilis diagnosed?
The doctor can make a diagnosis from the medical history and examination, with attention to sex organs, mouth and anus. If a syphilitic sore is present, a very small piece of the sore or fluid from the sore will be removed to look for bacteria using a special microscope known as a darkfield microscope.
A blood test (known as VDRL) will be done to determine if antibodies (substances produced by the immune system to fight infection against the Treponema pallidum bacteria) are present. The doctor will also want to test recent sexual partners.
How is syphilis treated?
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage syphilis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with syphilis :
- Don’t stop taking your medicine or change the dosage because you feel better unless your doctor says to.
- Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant, transmission of syphilis to the fetus is very dangerous.
- Tell your doctor if you have a drug allergy, espicially to penicillin
- Wash your hands often to avoid spreading the infection
- Practice safe sex. Use condoms
- Tell your sexual contacts that you have been treated for syphilis so that they can get tested
- Avoid sex for at least 2 weeks after treatment or until cleared by your doctor.
- Get tested for other STDs
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Page 1271.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017