Syphilis

Syphilisis a highly infectious sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can be passed on through unprotected (condom-less) vaginal, anal and oral sex. This valentines make sure you know the facts about about syphilis and how you can prevent infection.


What happens if I have Syphilis

If you have syphilis you may see a sore on your penis or vagina, around your anus or in your mouth.  You may also develop a blotchy rash, commonly found on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet or across your body, but sometimes syphilis shows no symptoms at all.  Some people who have symptoms, will find they disappear on their own, but that doesn’t mean syphilis has gone away. and the infection can still be passed on.

If you think you might have syphilis arrange an appointment for testing with your GP or sexual health clinic. Treatment is simple and effective. By getting treatment you will stop the harmful effects of syphilis and prevent it being passed on to other people.

If left untreated, syphilis will remain in your body and may start to damage your internal organs, including your brain, nerves, eyes and heart blood vessels. For some people, the damage of untreated syphilis shows up many years later.

 

The stages of syphilis

Syphilis can affect the body in stages. Often you may have no symptoms at all.

Primary Stage

Early syphilis or primary stage (10 days – 6 weeks) is usually a small, red ulcer/sore which heals itself after 3-6 weeks. This is called a chancre (pronounced ‘shanker’). There may be one or multiple and they may be painful or painless. You might also notice swollen glands in the area near the sores. If syphilis is not treated it will progress to the second stage.

Secondary Stage

Secondary stage syphilis (1 week – 6 months after the first stage) may show a rash on the skin, particularly on the palms of the hands, and soles of the feet, and often on the trunk (chest, stomach and back). There may also be swollen glands, headaches, aches and pains, hair loss, deafness or eye problems.

Late Syphilis

Often has no signs or symptoms, but the syphilis is still in the body and will show up only in a blood test for syphilis. If left untreated, damage can be done to the brain, nervous system, eyes and this may not be apparent for years.

Pregnancy

Syphilis can be passed on from a pregnant mother to her baby at any stage of the pregnancy. If syphilis is found during pregnancy it can be treated to prevent the infection being transmitted to the baby. Pregnant women are routinely offered syphilis testing along with tests for HIV and Hepatitis B.

 

Key things you can do to prevent getting and giving syphilis

 

How is syphilis passed on?

Syphilis can be easily spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex. Even if you have had the infection before and been cured you can catch it again. Syphilis may also be passed on through deep kissing if the infected partner has an ulcer (chancre) in their mouth.

The best way to prevent syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections is to practice safer sex.  This includes:

How can I prevent infections

The best way to prevent syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections is to practice safer sex. This includes:

  • Using a condom every time you have sex with new partners or until you have both been checked out for sexually transmitted infections
  • Reducing the number of sexual partners you have.
  • Having regular sexual health check-ups at your local sexual health clinic.
  • Remember,
    • Syphilis sores are very infectious and can sometimes be on areas not covered by condoms, or be hidden in the vagina, rectum or mouth.
    • Syphilis can be passed on through oral (Blow Job), vaginal and anal sex. Using a condom or dental dam will reduce the risk.

Where can I get Free Condoms

Condoms and lubricant are available free in Ayrshire and Arran.  To find your nearest C Card centre Click here

Where can I get tested

You can get a full sexual health check -up at a local Sexual Health Clinic and your GP. Click here to find your nearest clinic.

If I test positive for syphilis, does my partner need to be tested?

Yes, if you test positive, it is important that your partner(s) is/are tested too so that they can also be treated, if required.

Avoid sexual contact until you and your partner have got the all clear.

Regular check ups

It is important to attend for regular sexual health checks so that infections can be picked up and treated early.

Can syphilis be treated

Yes, syphilis can be treated with antibiotics.

It is important if you are treated for syphilis that you go back to the clinic to check the infection is completely gone, and to ensure your partner is also tested/checked and, if necessary, treated so you do not re-infect each other.

Avoid sexual contact until you and your partner have got the all clear.

What if syphilis is left untreated

If left untreated, syphilis will remain in the body and may start to damage your internal organs, including your brain, nerves, eyes, heart blood vessels and joints. For some people the damage of untreated syphilis shows up many years later in the secondary or late stage.