- What is it?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. The first symptom is a painless, round, red sore that appears 10-90 days after infection anywhere you have had sex. Many people have syphilis and do not know they have it and can pass it on to other partners without knowing it. Syphilis is easy to treat and cure.
- How do you get infected by Syphilis?
You can get syphilis by having sex with someone who has it, this means having oral, anal or vaginal contact. You can get syphilis when your mouth, genitals, or another part of your body touches a syphilis sore (called a chancre) on a person who has the disease. If you are pregnant you can pass the disease on to your baby.
- How soon will symptoms appear?
The average time between infection and the start of the first symptom is 21 days, but this can range from 10 to 90 days.
- What are the symptoms?
During the primary stage you may have one or more painless sores on the genitals or in the mouth. This sore lasts for 3 to 6 weeks and heals on its own. If you do not get treatment it will progress to the next stage. During the secondary stage you might have a red or brown non itchy rash on your hands and feet, or other parts of your body. Other symptoms may include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, hair loss, swollen glands and feeling tired. These symptoms will go away on their own and if not treated will progress to the latent stage. In this stage you have no symptoms and the disease can remain hidden for many years. The tertiary phase is the final stage and is extremely serious. Symptoms of this stage may involve difficulty moving your limbs, paralysis, numbness, blindness, and heart disease.
- Testing and treatment.
You can get a blood test to determine if you have the disease. You should be tested immediately if you have any symptoms, if your partner has syphilis or symptoms, or if you are pregnant. Syphilis is treated with shots of the antibiotic penicillin.
- How can I reduce my risk of getting Syphilis?
The best way to prevent syphilis is not to have sex, or to only have sex with someone who is not infected and who only has sex with you. Avoid sex with anyone if you see an unusual sore. Protections can reduce your risk of getting the disease if used correctly. Getting a blood test once a year is recommended.