Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection, it is one of the easiest sexually transmitted infections to catch. It is important to get treated if you have Syphilis as it can lead to serious health issues.

Syphilis will not normally go away on its own and will require treatment.

Syphilis is usually passed on from person to person when there is close contact with an infected sore. Typical ways this can happen are:

  • during sex, including vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • sharing sex toys
  • sharing needles
  • kissing or licking the anus

If infected, pregnant women can also pass Syphilis onto their baby.

  • using the same toilet as an infected person
  • sharing clothing 
  • sharing cutlery
  • sharing a bathroom

Syphilis symptoms are not always obvious and can eventually disappear on their own, however this doesn’t mean the person is no longer infected - a person will usually remain infected until they get treatment.

Some people don’t have any symptoms.

Typical symptoms of Syphilis include

  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • swollen lymph glands
  • small sores or ulcers around the penis, vagina or anus
  • white patches in the mouth
  • a red rash that usually affects the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

If Syphilis is left untreated for a long time it can spread to the brain or other sensitive areas of the body and cause serious long-term problems.

Symptoms in later stages of infection from Syphilis include:

  • Numbness
  • Heart disease
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Stroke
  • Deafness
  • Dementia
  • Skin rashes

At this later stage, if not treated, syphilis can be dangerous enough to result in death.

Being infected with Syphilis while pregnant is very dangerous for your baby, and can lead to miscarriage or still birth.

If you believe you may have Syphilis and you are pregnant you should speak with your doctor or a health professional as soon as possible, treatment can be given to you while you are  pregnant through a course of antibiotics - the treatment will not harm your unborn baby.

To get tested you should visit a sexual health clinic or your doctor, testing involves providing a sample of blood as well as taking a sample of fluid from any sores on your body using a cotton bud.

If you are worried you might have Syphilis getting tested as soon as possible is important. This is because Syphilis will not normally go away on its own and if left untreated it can spread to other areas of the body such as the brain.

The drugs used to treat Syphilis are only available through prescription from a doctor or health professional.

The treatment for Syphilis is usually:

  • an injection of antibiotics
  • a course of antibiotic tablets

You should avoid any sexual contact with other people until at least 2 weeks after your treatment finishes.

Methods for reducing the risk of getting Syphilis are:

  • use condoms for vaginal, anal sex 
  • use a condom for oral sex
  • avoid sharing sex toys
  • avoid sharing needles
Myth: Getting an STI test is painful
Truth:

For both men and women an STI test can be as simple and easy as providing a urine sample. Some tests involve having blood taken or visually examining the genitals.

Had unprotected sex?

If you have had unprotected sex this puts you at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection.

Symptom Checker Find a clinic Do I have an infection? What to expect at the clinic?