Syphilis is a bacterial infection which can be easily passed from one person to another through sexual contact.
Both men and women can have syphilis and pass it on. The infection can be spread if you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, or share sex toys.
How can syphilis be passed on?
Syphilis can be passed on without knowing you have the infection because symptoms can be mild and you may not notice or recognise them.
Syphilis can be passed from one person to another during sex and by direct skin contact with someone who has syphilis sore or a syphilis rash.
It can be passed on before symptoms are noticeable or even after they’ve disappeared.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Syphilis can develop in three stages:
The 1st stage – Primary syphilis: Symptoms begin with one or more painless but highly infectious sores on the skin known as chancres (pronounced Shanker). On average this will be 2-3 weeks after coming into contact with syphilis. If someone else comes into contact with these chancres, which typically happens during sexual contact, then they can also catch the condition. The sores of the 1st stage are very infectious and may take 2-6 weeks to heal.
The 2nd stage- Secondary syphilis: If the infection remains untreated the second stage will usually occur some weeks after any sores have appeared and healed. Syphillis remains infectious at this stage and can still be passed on.
- A skin rash
- Sore throat
- A headache
The 3rd stage – Tertiary syphilis: When syphilis remains untreated it goes into another phase known as the 3rd stage or latent syphilis . If the infection is left untreated for many years may cause very serious damage to the heart, brain eyes, other internal organs, bones and nervous system. At this stage syphilis can lead to death, it is however rare in the UK.
How will I know if I have the infection?
You can only be certain if you have a test. Testing is easy just a simple blood test.
What is the treatment for syphilis?
Treatment is through a simple antibiotic injection or a course of injections or by taking antibiotic tablets or capsules. Treatment is very effective for the first and second stage as long as it is taken correctly. In the third stage it can also be treated but any damage already done would be permanent.