Syphilis is a bacterial infection that’s usually caught by having sex with someone who’s infected and the test for syphilis is usually in the form of a blood test. Getting syphilis tested and treated as soon as possible is imperative if you have any suspicions it could be present since it can cause serious problems if left untreated.
So, would syphilis show in a routine blood test? It is often difficult to diagnose syphilis, therefore, multiple blood tests are likely to be required. As part of the immune system, the body makes antibodies to fight foreign substances, such as bacteria that cause syphilis and blood tests can confirm whether these antibodies exist or not.
Read on to learn more about blood testing for syphilis, syphilis symptoms and treatment.
Blood Testing For Syphilis
There are two commonly used types of syphilis blood screening tests that help detect the disease at its early stages: Rapid plasma reagin (RPR) and Venereal disease research laboratory (VDRL). These tests look for antibodies against the syphilis bacteria, and results are expected within 1-2 days.
It is often necessary for a series of blood tests to confirm or dismiss a syphilis diagnosis, so a positive screening test will trigger additional testing. Likewise, if you get a negative result, your doctor may ask you to wait a few weeks before you repeat the test. The reason is that the RPR test may result in a false negative. Likewise, syphilis can cause false-negative results on the VDRL test if you have had syphilis for less than three months.
What Are The Symptoms Of Syphilis?
So, we’ve covered blood testing for syphilis – but how do you know that you should get a blood test in the first place?
Syphilis symptoms may never become apparent and may eventually go away, but unless treated, you will always remain infected.
Some people with syphilis have no symptoms, however, typical symptoms can include:
- small, painless sores or ulcers that often appear on the penis, vagina, or around the anus, but can also appear 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 in women or around the bottom (anus) in both men and women
- white patches in the mouth
- tiredness, headaches, joint pains, a high temperature (fever) and swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits
How Is Syphilis Spread?
Close contact with an infected sore is the most common way to spread syphilis. It usually happens during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus, or when sharing sex toys with someone who has the virus and therefore anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting the disease.
We previously wrote a blog titled ‘Can you catch syphilis without having sex?’, and the answer is yes. You can catch syphilis if you inject drugs and share needles with someone who has the infection. This is also true if you get blood transfusions, but these scenarios are very rare in the UK because all blood donations are tested for syphilis. Finally, pregnant women with syphilis can also pass the infection to their unborn babies.
It is often worth dispelling myths by pointing out ways that syphilis cannot be spread. For example, syphilis cannot be spread by using the same toilet, clothing, cutlery or bathroom as an infected person.
What Treatment Is There for Syphilis?
The usual treatment for syphilis is either:
- an injection of antibiotics into your buttocks – most people will only need 1 dose, although 3 injections given at weekly intervals may be recommended if you have had syphilis for a long time
- a course of antibiotics tablets if you cannot have the injection – this will usually last 2 or 4 weeks, depending on how long you have had syphilis
It is advised that you should refrain from conducting any sexual activity with another person for at least two weeks following your treatment.
Your Sexual Health Syphilis Testing UK
The only way to know for sure is to get tested for STIs. It is vitally important to get checked for STIs as many will cause severe health complications if left untreated. At Your Sexual Health, we have a range of STI tests that can be taken in the privacy of your own home meaning no more NHS clinic waiting rooms, just accurate private STD testing available at home and in-clinic.
At Your Sexual Health, we provide a range of tests that can diagnose the presence of syphilis. Our syphilis tests start from £65 and use a blood sample to diagnose syphilis from 10 days after exposure and are the most straightforward and simple syphilis test that we offer. Our tests can provide the peace of mind that you need if you fear that you have contracted the virus with one day turnaround times and a choice to take your test at one of our clinics or at home.
As ever, we are here to help, and if you have a query, no matter how small or significant, please reach out to us and we’ll do our best to assist you.