Syphilis at a Glance
- A sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Often has no symptoms
- Treatment available in the early stages
- Condoms offer good protection
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a common bacterial infection that’s spread through sex. Syphilis is easily cured with antibiotic medicine, but it can cause permanent damage if you don’t get treated.
Syphilis is serious — but it can be cured.
Syphilis is a really common STD. Syphilis is spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Syphilis causes sores on your genitals (called chancres). The sores are usually painless, but they can easily spread the infection to other people. You get syphilis from contact with the sores. A lot of people with syphilis don't notice the sores and feel totally fine, so they might not know they have it.
Syphilis can be easily cured with medication if you treat it early. But without treatment, it leads to really serious, permanent problems like brain damage, paralysis, and blindness. That's why STD testing is so important — the sooner you know you have syphilis, the faster you can get rid of it.
How do you get syphilis?
Syphilis is spread from sexual skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it. You get it when your vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or mouth touches someone's syphilis sores — usually during sex. Syphilis can be spread even if no one cums.
The main ways people get syphilis are from having vaginal sex and anal sex. It's less common to get it from having oral sex, but it can happen. A mother can also pass syphilis to a baby during pregnancy and childbirth, which can be dangerous.
Syphilis is very easy to give to other people in the beginning, when there are sores. But lots of people don't even know they have syphilis because they don't notice the sores. Using condoms every time you have sex is one of the best ways to help prevent syphilis — even if you and your partner seem totally healthy.
Syphilis isn't spread through casual contact, so you CAN'T get it from sharing food or drinks, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, sharing towels, or sitting on toilet seats.
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