Overview

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is usually caught by unprotected sex with someone who has syphilis. Whilst the symptoms of syphilis may go away on their own, that doesn’t mean you are cured, you must receive a treatment of antibiotics to be cured. Left untreated syphilis can cause serious health problems. Getting syphilis increases your risk of catching HIV.

Symptoms of Syphilis

It is important to remember that some people with syphilis have no symptoms! important Symptoms can include:

  • small, painless sores or ulcers that typically appear on the penis, vagina, or around the anus, but can occur in other places such as the mouth
  • a blotchy red rash that often affects the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
  • small skin growths (similar to genital warts) that may develop on the vulva or around the anus
  • white patches in the mouth
  • tiredness, headaches, joint pains, a high temperature (fever), and swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits

Whilst sometimes symptoms may eventually disappear you will still be infected if you do not get treated! If left untreated for several years syphilis can cause very serious long term problem.

How is Syphilis passed on?

Syphilis is usually spread during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys with someone who's infected – as their blood or bodily fluids (cum, pre-cum, vaginal fluids, anal mucus and breastmilk) can enter your bloodstream this way via a small cut or wound. Unlike most STIs syphilis can also be passed through skin to skin contact with the infected sore, meaning that if you touch the sore then touch a thin part of your skin known as the mucous membranes (ears, eyelids, mouth, lips, anus and parts of the genitals) that you can contract syphilis without having any blood or bodily fluids exchanged.

Treatment for Syphilis

Syphilis is usually treated with either:

  • An injection of antibiotics into your buttocks – most people will only need one dose, although three injections given at weekly intervals may be recommended if you've had syphilis for a long time
  • a course of antibiotics tablets if you can't have the injection – this will usually last two or four weeks, depending on how long you've had syphilis

You should avoid any kind of sexual activity or close sexual contact with another person until at least two weeks after your treatment finishes.

Is Syphilis Curable?

Yes! A course of antibiotics will cure syphilis.

Do I need to contact previous sexual partners?

Yes, the GUM clinic (Genito-Urinary Medicine) will take details of your previous sexual partners – and contact them for you anonymously.