What is it?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that does not always have symptoms right away. Syphilis is simple to test for and simple to treat. If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious harm to the body, so it’s important to get tested regularly.
How can you get it?
- You can get it through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a partner who has syphilis. The infection is transmitted when your mouth, vagina, or anus comes into contact with the syphilis sore on your partner’s mouth, vagina, or anus. Transmitting syphilis from mouth to mouth contact, like kissing, is very rare.
How do you know if you have it?
If left untreated, the bacteria will go through different symptom stages.
- After 3 weeks to 3 months, a sore will appear where the infection entered your body. This is called a chancre. The chancre can be round, firm, painless, and sometimes wet.
- The chancre will disappear on its own; however if the chancre is located inside your body, like in the vagina, you may not even know that you have it.
- 3-months -2 years after the chancre appeared you may develop a rash on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet or all over your body. The rash usually does not itch, and can sometimes be hard to see
- You may also feel sick like you have the flu
- Both the rash and the flu-like symptoms can come and go until they finally disappear.
- Before the late stage, there is stage called the latent stage, where the bacteria can show no symptoms for months or years
- If the bacteria left untreated, then the late stage occurs, where the bacteria causes problems with your brain, liver, heart and other important organs.
- Once damage to the body has been done it cannot be reversed.
How is it treated?
Syphilis is very easy to treat using antibiotics during the early stages. It can be treated during the later stages as well using a different length and dosage of antibiotics. But remember, once syphilis starts causing problems with your organs, the damage that is done cannot be undone, so it’s important to get tested regularly.
How can you prevent it?
- Using condoms or dental dams can reduce your chance of getting it
- Sexual play that does not include oral, vaginal, anal can reduce your chances of getting syphilis (massaging, mutual masturbation, sharing a sexual fantasy, etc.)
- You can also ensure that you and your partner have been tested and do not have syphilis before engaging in sexual activity.
How are you tested?
Usually, testing is done by taking a sample of blood, but if you have a sore, the medical practitioner might take a swab of the sore. A test for syphilis will not show up positive until 3-4 weeks after the bacteria has been transmitted.