Syphilis FAQ and Syphilis Testing Info

Syphilis, a bacterial infection attributable to the Treponema Pallidum bacterium, is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) which is tough to distinguish from other STD’s simply because syphilis signs and symptoms act like those of other STD’s. For this reason, syphilis is oftentimes called “the great imitator”.

Syphilis can be asymptomatic for many years. But people infected are at risk for later complications if not treated. Most people contract syphilis from a person who does not even know they may be infected.

How do you get Syphilis?

Syphilis passes by direct exposure to a syphilis sore from one individual to another. A syphilis blister might be located on the vagina, external genitals, rectum or anus. At times, the sores may be found in the mouth or on the lips. Syphilis is transmitted during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Infected females who happen to be pregnant might pass syphilis to their infant. You can not contract syphilis from casual contact (i.e. a toilet seat).

Syphilis Testing

The Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) blood test detects antibodies to the Syphilis bacterium.

Syphilis Symptoms

Syphilis has three stages; primary, secondary and late.

Primary Stage

During the syphilis primary stage, an individual sore, or chancre appears. The chancre can be round, small, firm, and pain-free. It appears at the area where syphilis entered a person’s body. After three to six weeks, the chancre heals with no treatment. However, if medication has not been administered, the infection goes into the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage

The syphilis secondary stage displays a skin rash and mucous membrane lesions. The stage starts with rash in one or several parts of the body. This rash can appear while, or several weeks following the chancre healing from the primary stage. The rash might appear on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet as rough, reddish brown, or red spots. But, other rashes that range in appearance may turn up somewhere else on the body. Secondary syphilis rashes are occasionally so faint, they go completely unnoticed. Additional warning signs may include sore throat, weight loss, a fever, tiredness, swollen lymph glands, and headache. Although the symptoms may reside without treatment, if not treated, the syphilis infection will move on to the late stage of the disease.

Late Stage

The late stage begins when the secondary symptoms resolve. With no treatment, the infected individual will still have syphilis even though no signs are apparent. Syphilis, in the late stage, might harm internal organs like the joints, bones, liver, heart, eyes, nerves, as well as the brain. It could be several years before the internal damage is determined.