Wondering if you should get tested for STDs?
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STDs are very common. But we can protect ourselves and each other from STDs like syphilis. Learning more about syphilis is an important first step.
Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about syphilis. We hope you find the answers helpful, whether you think you may have syphilis, have been diagnosed with it, or are just curious about it.
You may have heard of syphilis, but many people are not sure what it is. Syphilis (SIFF-I-lis) is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria that are passed sexually. It can infect the vagina, anus, urethra, or penis, as well as the lips and mouth.
Syphilis can be a serious health risk if it is not treated. About 36,000 American women and men become infected with syphilis every year.
Often, syphilis has no symptoms or has such mild symptoms that a person doesn't notice them.
There are also several stages of syphilis, which may overlap. The stages may be separated by latent stages, or times when no symptoms are present.
Symptoms vary with each stage. But the syphilis symptoms do not always occur in the same order.
A health care provider can do tests to see if you have syphilis, whether or not you have syphilis symptoms. If you have open sores, your health care provider will test any fluid that comes from sores. Otherwise, your health care provider may test your blood.
Yes. The early stages of syphilis are easy to treat. If you have syphilis, you will need to take an antibiotic. Your partner(s) may also be treated at the same time.
Keep in mind that any damage caused by syphilis in the later stages cannot be undone. If you are at risk for syphilis, regular testing will help you catch the infection at its earliest, most treatable phase.
Staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center, many other clinics, health departments, and private health care providers can diagnose syphilis and help you get any treatment you may need.
Syphilis is spread by contact with syphilis sores. Direct contact can occur during
Syphilis is especially contagious in the early stage of the disease, when sores are present. The liquid that oozes from them is very infectious. People are usually not contagious during the latent stages of the first four years of syphilis infections. Untreated syphilis remains latent for many years or a lifetime, but can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
Syphilis and Pregnancy
Syphilis can be spread from a woman to her fetus during pregnancy. The effect of syphilis on a fetus is very serious. If untreated, the risks of stillbirth or serious birth defects are high. Birth defects include damage to the heart, brain, and bones, as well as blindness. It is very important for pregnant women to consider testing for syphilis early, and, sometimes, throughout their pregnancies. Pregnant women with syphilis can be treated to prevent harm to the fetus.
There is a lot you can do to prevent getting syphilis.
If you have syphilis, there are several ways to prevent spreading it to other people. You can
Q&A with Dr. Cullins