What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. It is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Without proper treatment, syphilis may lead to severe complications such as arthritis, brain damage, and blindness.
Primary means of transmission
Most people get syphilis from a direct contact the sores in the infected person’s body. Those sores can be found on the outer parts of a person’s genitals, vagina, anus, or within the rectum. In some cases, the sores can grow on the lips and in the mouth as well. The transmission happens mostly during vaginal, anal, oral sex and other sexual activities.
Can I get syphilis through social contact?
Since the bacteria causing syphilis is vulnerable outside its host, the disease cannot spread through contact with common sources such as toilet seats, bathtubs, swimming pools, or doorknobs. You will not get syphilis from sharing clothes or utensils, either.
Can I spread syphilis to my child during pregnancy?
A pregnant woman can transmit the disease to her unborn baby, which is why a screening for syphilis is required during the first prenatal visit. The test should be carried out again during the third trimester and at delivery. Babies of women with syphilis are at risks of stillbirth and infant death. Even if the infected baby survives, they still need treatment to avoid further complications that may surface weeks after.
How to prevent a syphilis infection?
You can reduce your risk of contracting syphilis by avoid getting physically intimate with an infected person. If you are not sure about the status of your partner, it’s best to use condoms in every sex act. However, if the syphilis sores occur outside of the area covered by condoms, transmission can still happen. So, you should be careful even when using condoms.
The most effective way to avoid syphilis as well as other sexually transmitted diseases is either abstaining from sex or stay in a long-term relationship with one partner who tested negative for the disease.
Treatment for syphilis
Syphilis can be cured if you are diagnosed and treated early. People who are infected in less than a year only need one dose of penicillin. If you are allergic to penicillin, your doctor will prescribe tetracycline, doxycycline or another antibiotic. The later you get treatment, the more doses you need. During the course of your treatment, you must not engage in any sexual activities. If you are diagnosed with syphilis, your sex partner should be tested and treated if necessary. Although syphilis does not recur after proper treatment, a person may get infected again if they come into contact with infected people. Fortunately, they can retreat.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 11, 2017 | Last Modified: December 19, 2019
Syphilis - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed). https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm. Accessed May 4, 2017.
Syphilis. http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/syphilis. Accessed May 4, 2017.
Syphilis Transmission. http://syphilis.emedtv.com/syphilis/syphilis-transmission.html. Accessed May 4, 2017.