Syphilis Symptoms & Testing
Cross Street Medical Clinic offers all relevant STD/STI screening tests and treatments. Speak to our doctors today about what you may need. Female doctors are available by appointment. We ensure patient privacy and confidentiality for all discussions, tests and treatments.
What is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.
Syphilis can cause serious complications if left untreated, by spreading to the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, liver, bones and joints.
How do we contract Syphilis?
Syphilis is a highly contagious disease that spreads by direct contact with a syphilis ulcer during vaginal, oral and anal sex.
Occasionally, the disease can be passed to another person through prolonged kissing or close bodily contact.
If you have had syphilis and were treated, you can still get infected again through unprotected sex with someone with syphilis.
How can we tell that we may have Syphilis?
Syphilis is nicknamed the “great pretender” because the symptoms can look like many other diseases.
The average time before appearance of the first symptoms is 21 days but can range from 10 to 90 days.
Typical symptoms include:
- Firm, painless, non-itchy ulcer or ulcers (chancre) on or around the penis, scrotum, vagina, or anus
- Painful sores inside vagina, rectum, mouth and lips
- Reddish-pink, non-itchy rash on the trunk and extremities, including the palms and soles
- Flat, broad, whitish, wart-like lesions known as condylomata latum on mucous membranes
Testing for Syphilis
Usually, blood tests (VDRL, TPPA, RPR titres) are used to screen and follow-up syphilis treatment.
A screening test, known as a Rapid Syphilis Test Kit (results available after 20 minutes) is also available.
Cross Street Medical offers all syphilis screening tests. Speak to our doctors today about what you may need. Female doctors are available by appointment. We ensure patient privacy and confidentiality for all discussions, tests and treatments.
What does Syphilis do to our bodies?
There are four stages:
During the first stage, you may notice a single sore or multiple ulcers. The ulcer is located where syphilis entered the body. Sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless and often go unnoticed. There may also be painless lymph nodes.
The sores heal within 3 to 6 weeks. After ulcers heal, you are still infectious unless you have been treated with antibiotics.
During the secondary stage, you may have skin rashes and sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus. The rash can start at one or more areas of the body. The rash can show up when your primary sore is healing or 4-10 weeks after the sore has healed.
The rash can look like rough, red, or reddish brown spots on the palms of your hands and soles of the feet. Other symptoms include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue.
Symptoms will disappear, even without treatment. But you are still infectious until you have been treated with antibiotics.
During the latent stage, there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. This period can last for years, and you remain infectious until you have been treated with antibiotics.
Most people with untreated syphilis do not develop tertiary syphilis. Tertiary syphilis can occur 3–30 years after infection. In tertiary syphilis, there can be damage to internal organs such as the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, liver, bones and joints.
Untreated syphilis may also increase a person’s risk of HIV.
What is the treatment for Syphilis?
Syphilis infection can be cured with antibiotics.
Follow-up testing for up to 24 months is recommended to confirm that treatment is successful.
Cross Street Medical offers treatment for syphilis. Speak to our doctors today about what you may need. Female doctors are available by appointment. We ensure patient privacy and confidentiality for all discussions, tests and treatments.
How do we prevent infection and re-infection?
- Avoiding high risk sex, including commercial sex workers, casual sex and multiple sex partners
- Using condoms, including during oral sex
- Being in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for syphilis and other STDs/STIs