Syphilis – what you need to know
Find out more about syphilis and book your test today
Your Sexual Health offer a wide range of private STI tests that can diagnose whether or not you have syphilis. We have a range of clinics located in a number of major towns and cities, whilst our home visits service allows us to collect samples at any address across the UK. We also offer a syphilis test kit which can be posted to your door. Find out more about syphilis in this information leaflet written by Your Sexual Health’s expert, Dr Rashid Bani and book your test today.
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is most commonly contracted by having sex with someone who already has the infection. It can be cured relatively easy with a short course of antibiotics, however if it goes unnoticed and untreated it can spread in the form of “tertiary syphilis” and affect you later on in life.
What are the symptoms of syphilis?
The symptoms of syphilis can be separated into three stages, the first symptoms develop two to three weeks after infection. This stage of infection is known as “primary syphilis” and the first signs are: –
- A small painless sore or ulcer called a chancre that can often go unnoticed. Most patients have just one chancre, but others may have multiple.
- It will typically be on the penis, vagina or anus, although they have been known to develop on the mouth or lips.
- You may also have swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpit indicating infection without many other symptoms.
These symptoms will usually pass within two to eight weeks, but if they go unnoticed then the condition will progress to secondary syphilis.
Once your initial symptoms have passed you may develop further symptoms a number of weeks down the line. This phase is known as “secondary syphilis” and the main symptoms are: –
- A blotchy red rash which may appear anywhere on the body, but is most common on the soles of the feet or palms of the hand.
- Small skin growths that look similar to genital warts appearing predominantly around the anus, but sometimes on the vulva for women.
- White patches in the mouth.
- Flu-like symptoms, including joint pains, fever, fatigue and headaches.
- Swollen glands indicating the presence of an infection.
- One occasional symptom could be patchy hair loss.
These can come and go for a period of months before they disappear. Some people may not notice any symptoms following the primary phase, but are still infected and can pass the condition to other people.
If the symptoms of syphilis pass without treatment then the condition can last for decades without causing any further symptoms. However it can spread to parts of the body, including the nerves or brain which is known as “tertiary syphilis”. It is not usually contagious at this stage.
People with tertiary syphilis can experience a range of serious health complications, including: –
- Dementia symptoms
- Loss of co-ordination
- Vision problems
- Heart problems
Even at this stage Syphilis is still treatable with antibiotics, but the effects are much harder to reverse that in the early stages.
How is it contracted?
Syphilis is usually spread through close contact with an infected sore during vaginal, anal or oral sex. However, syphilis can also be spread by sharing sex toys with someone who is infected. It is also possible to contract the condition by sharing needles or from blood transfusions, but this is very rare.
What private syphilis test options are available?
Here at Your Sexual Health we have a range of private STD tests which can be used to diagnose syphilis. They include our individual syphilis test, which is accurate from 21 days following the contraction of the condition. It uses a blood sample to detect antibodies present in your blood. We also offer a range of profile STD tests, many of which can diagnose syphilis as well as many other conditions using the same sample.
As well as offering a range of tests, we have also made our testing service more convenient than ever by offering our new home visits service. This allows you to be tested confidentially for a range of conditions in your own home or any UK address. Our other services include clinic tests at a range of towns and cities across the UK, whilst we also offer postal syphilis test kits where you send your sample direct to our laboratory.
How is syphilis treated?
Following diagnosis of the condition syphilis is treated one of two ways. One way is through an injection of antibiotics into the buttocks. This can be administered once or up to three times at weekly intervals depending how long you may have had the condition. The other way to treat the condition is through a course of anti-biotic tablets which usually lasts two or four weeks. Luckily, Your Sexual Health offer a prescription service or onward referral meaning that you can get the treatment that you require in a timely manner.
How can you prevent syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that is passed from infected individuals during sex meaning that anyone who has sex with an infected person is at risk. As with any sexually transmitted disease though, practising safe sex will reduce your chance of contracting the condition. The following methods will reduce the risk involved: –
- Use a condom – whether male or female, the use of a condom for vaginal, oral and anal sex will reduce your chance of getting infected.
- Use a dental dam during oral sex.
- Avoid sharing sex toys or wash and cover them with a condom before each use.
How common is the condition?
Like many STDs in the UK, syphilis is currently on the rise with cases jumping by 76% between 2012 and 2015. That said, it’s not the most common sexually transmitted disease. In 2015 there were 5,228 cases reported in the UK.