Syphilis

mobile logo header

Overview
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacteria. Usually it is transmitted through contact with open sores during sex, but you may not notice the sores on you or your partner. If left untreated, syphilis can cause more serious health outcomes. Like other STDs, you may not know you have syphilis unless you get tested.
How do I get it?
Syphilis is spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom. In other words, through reglar sex, butt sex or blow jobs/eating out. Specifically, syphilis is transmitted when a person who has syphilis develops a sore. When that sore comes in contact with a sexual partner during sex, syphilis can be transmitted. Unlike chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis is a skin-to-skin transmission. Even if the penis doesn't go completely into the vagina, butt hole or mouth, it can be passed from one person to another if the partner comes in contact with the sore. It can also be passed from a mother to a newborn baby during pregnancy and childbirth. That means it is very important to use a condom during any type of sex from the very begninning and that if you are pregnant, you are receiving prenatal care.
What will it feel like?

Syphilis can feel like a lot of different things. Symptoms of syphilis are very specific based on the stage of infection. Primary syphilis: The first sign of a syphilis infection is a skin sore called a chancre (shank-er) which usually shows up 2-12 weeks after being exposed. It's possible to have more than one chancre. You might not see a chancre at all because it might be inside your mouth, butthole or vagina. The sore typically appears on or around the area that was exposed to your partner's sore including the skin around the scrotum, penis, vaginal lips, and butthole or mouth. The sores are not painful and disappear after several days without treatment. Just because the chancre doesn't hurt or goes away does not mean the syphilis infection has been cured! If you don't get treated, syphilis could lead to some very serious health problems!

Secondary syphilis: Secondary signs and symptoms occur 4-12 weeks after infection in the form of a body rash. This rash is identified by its unique location: the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. It isn't itchy and, just like the chancre, can disappear without treatment. You may also notice warts and white mucous patches (like puss filled little sacs), which are very infectious and can occur in mouth, on the side of the tongue or around the butthole. Other symptoms of secondary infection include swollen glands, fever, fatigue, patchy hair loss, weight loss, and headaches. These symptoms sound a lot like other health problems such as the flu; so many people ignore these signs of infection. If you experience anything like this, you should get it checked right away! Latent syphilis: This later stage of infection doesn't have any signs or symptoms. At this point, syphilis can only be found by getting a special blood test. A latent infection can continue for life and some people may never experience any serious health problems. If syphilis is untreated, it can cause long-term health issues like problems with your eye sight and heart.

How do I get tested?

Syphilis testing can only be done by having a blood test. There is not a swab or urine test available for syphilis. If you come to Health Center 1 or 5, you will always have a syphilis test done. If you go to your doctor, you need to make sure you ask them to test you for syphilis, especially if you have any of the symptoms mentioned before.

What if I test Positive?
Syphilis can be treated and cured at any stage of infection with penicillin shots. The stage of infection determines how many shots of penicillin are required. If you're allergic to penicillin there are other effective treatments. Even though your symptoms may go away, it is important to have several repeat syphilis blood tests to be sure the treatment has worked. We recommend getting a test one week after you've been treated and then every few months for the next year. And, as always, if you've had unprotected sex, get an STD check-up to make sure you haven't been re-infected or infected with another STD or with HIV. Also, it is very important to have your sex partner(s) examined and treated for syphilis. Otherwise they can give the infection back to you and/or infect others. A positive syphilis test can also increase your chances of contracting or spreading HIV to sex partners.
How do I protect myself?
Not having sex is the only way to be sure you will not get infected with syphilis. If you are having sex, use condoms correctly every time to make sure you stay STD free. Also remember that you may not notice any symptoms of syphilis, so it is important to get tested regularly if you are having sex. Get STD check-ups every three to six months (that means at least twice a year, up to four times a year). If you are a guy having sex with other guys, it is especially important to ask your doctor for a syphilis test. This makes sure infections like syphilis are caught early and treated fast. Just remember, the more sex partners you have, the greater the chance you will get syphilis!
Where can I get tested?
Check out our map to find a testing site near you!