What is it?
An infection caused by bacteria that can spread throughout the body.
How common is it?
About 36,000 new cases are reported each year. Learn more at www.cdc.gov.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary based on the course of infection—beginning with a single, painless sore (called a chancre) on the genitals, anus, or mouth Other symptoms may appear up to 6 months after the first sore has disappeared, including a rash. However, there may be no noticeable symptoms until syphilis has progressed to more serious problems (see below).
How do you get it?
Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed through kissing if there is a lesion (sore) on the mouth, and from mother to child during childbirth.
How do you treat it?
Antibiotic treatment can cure syphilis if it’s caught early, but medication can’t undo damage already done. Both partners must be treated and avoid sexual contact until the sores are completely healed.
What are the consequences if left untreated?
Increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. Untreated, the symptoms will disappear, but the infection stays in the body and can cause damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system, and even death. Syphilis in women can seriously harm a developing fetus during pregnancy.
Get Yourself Tested
Anyone who has had sex may be at risk for an STD, even when there are no symptoms. Talk to your health care provider about testing.
Can it be prevented?
There is no vaccine for syphilis. Abstaining from sex and sexual contact is the surest way to avoid getting an STD. Using condoms every time reduces the risk of contracting STDs. If you or your partner tests positive, both partners must be treated and avoid sexual contact until the sores are completely healed.
If you are sexually active, using condoms consistently and correctly, from start to finish, is one of the best ways to help prevent STDs. Condoms are the ONLY method that protects sexually active people from both STDs and pregnancy.