Syphilis is a highly contagious STI that is spread by being exposed to the bacteria treponema pallidum. It is curable in the early stages, however, if left untreated may lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, brain damage, and blindness.

Transmission: Syphilis is spread through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has syphilis. They typically have a sore or ulcer from the syphilis, however, they may be contagious without symptoms depending on which stage of the disease they are in.

Symptoms: There are four stages of syphilis (primary, secondary, latent, tertiary). Each stage presents with different symptoms.

The Primary stage of syphilis is 100% treatable with early diagnosis and medication. Symptoms present as one or more sores or ulcers (chancre) around the vaginal, anus, rectum, lips or mouth. These sores are usually firm, round, and painless. They can appear anywhere from 10-90 days after exposure and will resolve in 3 -6 weeks, with or without treatment. Without diagnosis and treatment, the disease will progress to other stages and eventually become untreatable.

Diagnosis: Syphilis is most commonly diagnosed through a blood test ordered by a health care provider. They may also test you for HIV, as the two tests can be done together, and you are higher risk for one if you have the other. In addition to a blood test the provider may be able to take a sample from the fluid of one of the sores to test.

Treatment: Early treatment with antibiotics is important if you have a concern for syphilis. In later stages, syphilis may be managed, however, it may not undo any damage already caused by the infection. Follow-up testing after treatment should take place to confirm treatment is successful.

Recurrence: Syphilis is a bacterium; therefore, treatment does not prevent you from getting it again if you are to be re-exposed.

Pregnancy Risk:  Syphilis can be spread from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby and cause serious complications. Your OB will perform comprehensive STI testing panel, including syphilis, at one of the first prenatal visits. They may also re-test certain at risk pregnant women for syphilis again at 28 weeks and delivery.

Prevention of any STI:

The only way to 100% prevent contracting an STI is to abstain from having any type of vaginal, anal or oral sex. Condoms may reduce your risk and exposure, but there is still a chance of spread through contact with skin that the condom does not protect you from. The best way to prevent and STI is to have routine testing and to be in a committed, long term, monogamous (one partner) relationship with someone who does not have any STI/STD’s.

Herpes (part 1), HPV, and Syphilis are only 3 of the causes that could result in bumps, lumps, and warts in the genital areas. There are others that are non STI related. If you have any concerns that you may have and STI or other cause for concern please see your health care provider.

Your Choices Randolph provides free, limited STI testing for women for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Please call or text us if you would like an appointment at 336-629-9988.

Note: The information in this and previous posts regarding Herpes, HPV, and Syphilis is in no way comprehensive. If you would like more information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment please visit the following websites where the information was sourced from or contact your health care provider.