Syphilis is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria. It is transmitted by direct contact with an infectious lesion (primarily during sexual contact), however it is also possible for it to be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy. There are several different stages of syphilis, early (primary, secondary and latent) and tertiary syphilis, depending on how long the person has been infected for. The earlier it is treated the easier it is to eradicate the infection.
The first symptom is usually a solitary and painless ulcer (chancre) on the penis, vagina or anus or sometimes in or around the mouth, always at the point of contact. The chancre can appear anytime from 10 days to 3 months after exposure, and can remain visible for anything from 2 to 6 weeks. Local lymphnodes can enlarge and become tender. This stage is easily missed.
This is when the disease becomes systemic (spread through the body) and can start within a few weeks of the chancre disappearing. It usually presents as a non itchy rash anywhere on the body, but typically affecting the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet with enlarged lymphnodes in the armpits or neck. Other associated symptoms are tiredness, sore throat and or headaches. These symptoms usually disappear after a few weeks and then the disease becomes latent.
During primary and secondary stages of the condition, people are highly infectious.
Usually from around 2 years after initial infection. During this stage there are usually no symptoms and the only way to have the disease diagnosed is by testing for it. During this stage people are not infectious
Blood test or a swab from an infected ulcer/chancre.
We include syphilis screening in all of our blood screens, which can be performed from 28 days, post contact, although we recommend a three-month follow up test.
Penicillin injection, the number of injections will depend on the stage of the disease you are in.
The longer you have had the infection the more treatment is required
If the disease is not diagnosed through sexual health check-ups and treated by the time it becomes latent, it can develop into the more serious late stage, or tertiary syphilis. The symptoms of tertiary syphilis can take years or decades to develop. The disease now spreads to other organs like the heart, brain or skin so the symptoms will depend on the organs affected. If it is left untreated it can in some instances be fatal, so regular sexual health check-ups are highly recommended.
I have over 14 years experience providing sexual health screening and I offer a completely confidential, professional, non judgemental service from start to end. If you are not sure if you have been at risk, then I offer a normal consultation to discuss the possible risks and whether screening would be appropriate. We discuss and agree all costs beforehand so you know exactly where you stand and I will always provide you with clear and accurate advice based on current British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH )guidelines.