What is syphilis?
Syphilis is usually contracted during vaginal, anal or oral intercourse without a condom with someone who has the infection. It can also be transmitted during pregnancy from an infected woman to the developing fetus.
How would you know if you had syphilis?
It's easy for the symptoms of syphilis to go unnoticed. A painless sore appears in the area of sexual contact in the early stages after infection (ten to ninety days). This usually clears up after two to six weeks, but the bacteria remain. Women may not notice the symptoms because sores can be painless and out of sight on the vaginal walls. In the second stage, a few people sometimes notice a rash on the palm if the hands or soles of the feet, and on other parts of the body. Second stage symptoms, if they develop, usually occur from seven to ten weeks after infection.
How do you test for infection?
Swabs can be taken from the sore if it is present; otherwise a blood test is needed. Routine antenatal tests often include a syphilis test, to prevent the infection form being passed unknowingly from the mother to the unborn child. Once someone has been infected with syphilis the infection will always show up on a syphilis blood test even though they have been successfully and adequately treated.
Is there any treatment for syphilis?
Once detected, syphilis is relatively easily cured by antibiotic injections or tablets. The duration of the treatment depends on the stage of infection and ranges from between ten to thirty days.
Are there any complications of syphilis?
If left untreated, the organism can affect any organ. These days however, with the use of antibiotics, it is uncommon for the disease to progress to harmful stages.
Do my partners need treatment?
For both sexes, tracing partners can go back months and even years depending on how long a person has been infected. An infected person is mainly infectious in the first two years. The blood results may be able to give a rough indication as to how long a person has been infected.