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Syphilis is not the long-term relationship you want!

Syphilis is called “the great imitator” because it has so many possible symptoms, many look like symptoms from other diseases. The only way to know if you have syphilis is to get tested.




What is syphilis and who should get tested?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that both men and women can get.

  • Anyone who has unsafe sex should get tested for syphilis every 3-6 months. What is unsafe sex? It is sex without using a condom when having anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
  • Anyone that has had multiple and anonymous sex partners.
  • Anyone whose partners have tested positive for syphilis in the past and are still sexually active.
  • All pregnant women during their first doctor’s visit. For those who are in a high risk category (having multiple sex partners or have a history of substance abuse), they should be re-tested at 28 -32 weeks of pregnancy and then again at delivery.

Syphilis can be spread in many ways:

  • Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a syphilis sore (chancre), usually during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Other ways include:
  • A pregnant woman with syphilis can spread syphilis to her unborn baby. If you are pregnant be sure to get tested.
  • Kissing can spread it if there are syphilis sores in the mouth or on the lips.


What are the symptoms of syphilis?

There are many different symptoms of syphilis including:

  • A painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected which can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump.
  • A non-itchy body rash can develop during the second stage of syphilis and can show up on the palms of your hands, on the soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places.
  • Syphilis can also affect the eye and can lead to permanent blindness.
  • You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all.




It is important to get tested and treated. The earlier you are diagnosed and start your treatment, the less likely you are to spread syphilis to your partners.




How is syphilis diagnosed?

A bood test is used to test for syphilis. Test results are usually received within 5-7 days.

What is the treatment for syphilis?

Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single injection of penicillin (an antibiotic) will cure a person who has primary, secondary, or early latent syphilis. Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has a later stage of syphilis. When treated early and medication is taken correctly, syphilis can be cured!

What if I am pregnant? Does syphilis affect my baby?

To prevent passing syphilis to your unborn baby, all pregnant women should be tested for syphilis. Most cases of congenital syphilis (where the mother with syphilis transmits it either through the placenta to the fetus or at birth to the baby) can be prevented with early screening and treatment.

What is the link between syphilis and HIV?

In the United States, people who get syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes can be more likely to get HIV in the future.

  • Syphilis and other STDs tend to be linked to HIV. When someone gets an STD it suggests they got it from someone who may be at risk for other STDs and HIV.
  • The same behaviors that put someone at risk for one infection (not using condoms, multiple partners, anonymous partners) often put them at risk for other STD infections.
  • Sores (chancres) caused by syphilis and other STDs make it easier for HIV to enter your body.
Syphilis Fact Sheet

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Learn more!

For more information about syphilis, visit the CDC and the Mayo Clinic.
















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