Syphilis is an STI that can cause serious damage to your health if left untreated. Many people don't notice symptoms to begin with, but it can be detected with a simple blood test. It's easy to treat and cure with antibiotics in its early stages.

This could be for you if:

  • You think you might have syphilis 
  • You want to know more about syphilis and its symptoms
  • You want to know how syphilis is detected and treated
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What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be dangerous to your health if it's left untreated. The good news is that it's easy to treat and cure in its early stages. Using condoms and dental dams can prevent syphilis from being passed on. 

Symptoms of Syphilis 

There are three stages to syphilis: 

  • First, you'll get a small sore (called a chancre) that looks infected at the centre. It might seep liquid or pus. It won't hurt, and it might be in a place that you don't even notice it! It'll stick around for up to six weeks. After it clears up, you still have the infection in your system, even if you don't get any more symptoms. 
  • A couple of months later, you could get a rash – usually on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. You could feel run-down and flu-ey. This stage sometimes takes more than a year to develop. 
  • In the third stage the disease starts to affect you brain, liver and other important organs. The infection can last for a long time, and cause terrible damage. People have died as a result of complications of late-stage syphilis. The upside is, You can’t pass syphilis on at this late stage, and it's still treatable. 

Testing for syphilis

You can get a blood test from a doctor to check for syphilis. If you have a suspected chancre (sore) they can also examine a sample from this sore to detect the infection. If you’re pregnant, they’ll normally test you for syphilis to make sure you don't pass it on to the baby. 

Call Healthline on 1300 65 88 86 to find out where the most convenient place for you to go for a sexual health test. 

Treating syphilis

Getting rid of syphilis is pretty straightforward in its early stages – it's just a couple of antibiotic injections a few weeks apart. You should contact all your sexual partners for the last couple of months and let them know they should get tested too – ask the nurse or doctor for advice if you're not sure what to say. 

It's a good idea to do a follow-up test a couple of months after treatment to make sure the infection's gone. Once you've got a clear follow-up test, you can feel safe about not passing it on.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 06 August, 2015
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