What are the symptoms of syphilis?
One of the first signs of syphilis is an open sore that appears wherever the bacteria entered the body. As syphilis spreads, a person may get a skin rash and have other symptoms like a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and weight loss. Without treatment, syphilis may cause blindness and nerve and heart problems.
How is syphilis diagnosed?
Your doctor will do a physical exam. You'll be asked about your symptoms and your sexual history.
The diagnosis of syphilis is usually confirmed with one of several blood tests. This is especially true if you don't have sores. If you have sores, a doctor may look at the fluid from one of the sores with a microscope to look for syphilis bacteria. (This is called a dark-field examination.)
To diagnose the primary and secondary stages of syphilis, the doctor may do a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) in some cases.
More testing should be done to look for other sexually transmitted infections, such as:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People who have syphilis have a greater chance of being exposed to HIV.
How is syphilis treated?
Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. Penicillin is the preferred medicine. You will need to be treated, and so will any sex partners that you may have exposed to the infection.
At any stage of the infection, antibiotics work well to cure syphilis. They can't undo the damage already caused by late-stage syphilis. But they can help you avoid further problems from the infection.
You cannot treat syphilis on your own. It must be treated with medicine that only a doctor can give you. Treatment helps you avoid other serious health problems. And it keeps you from spreading syphilis to others.
Being treated during pregnancy can help you avoid miscarriage or stillbirth. It can also help keep your baby from being born with syphilis.