Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Syphilis

Syphilis FAQ

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  • Sexually active people who engage in unprotected sex and/or have sex with multiple partners, as well as men who have sex with other men and/or have the human immunodeficiency virus have a high risk for syphilis
  • A person can also get this STD by sharing sex toys, undergoing a blood transfusion or through direct unprotected contact with an active lesion, typically during kissing

Q: Is syphilis a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

A: Yes. Syphilis is an STD caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria. It can affect people all over the world, with young adults aged 15 to 25 considered the highest-risk population.1 Sexually active people who engage in unprotected sex and/or have sex with multiple partners, as well as men who have sex with other men and/or have the human immunodeficiency virus have a high risk for syphilis.2

Q: How do you get syphilis?

A: Syphilis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex when a person has direct contact with a syphilis sore or chancre, or with a syphilis rash. A person can also get this STD by sharing sex toys, undergoing a blood transfusion or through direct unprotected contact with an active lesion, typically during kissing.3,4

Q: What are the symptoms of syphilis?

A: Syphilis symptoms develop in stages5 and tend to go unnoticed because these are often mild and may be confused with other indicators.6 Patients usually first notice the appearance of one or more small and painless syphilis sore/s or chancres on the penis, vagina or around the anus. In some cases, sores can also be found on the lips, fingers or buttocks. Other signs of syphilis include swollen glands in the neck, groin or armpits.

Q: What does syphilis look like?

A: If the syphilis infection is already at the latter stages, patients can develop:7

Syphilis rash

Small skin growths that look like genital warts

White patches in the mouth

Flu-like symptoms (tiredness, headaches, joint pain and high-temperature fever)

Swollen glands

Occasional patchy hair loss

Q: How long does syphilis last?

A: It typically takes 21 days after the initial syphilis infection for symptoms to appear, although some indicators can develop 10 to 90 days after the infection.8 How long syphilis affects a patient depends on the stage of the infection that he or she has:9

  • Primary Stage: Syphilis sores, which usually appear at this stage, can take three to six weeks to heal, whether the patient received treatment or not.
  • Secondary Stage: Indicators that appear during this stage of the infection, such as rashes, mucous membrane lesions, fever, headaches or swollen lymph glands, may disappear within a few weeks or repeatedly come and go for nearly a year.10
  • Latent Stage: At this stage, symptoms aren’t visible. Patients who don’t get treated may have the infection in the body for years.
  • Tertiary Stage: Arguably the most devastating stage of syphilis, the tertiary stage can occur 10 to 30 years after the infection began and cause devastating complications.

Q: Is syphilis permanent?

A: No, it is not a permanent condition. There are ways to effectively get rid of it, as long as proper methods are used.

Q: Can syphilis be cured?

A: Yes, syphilis is a curable STD. But take note that antibiotics and other medications typically recommended for the treatment of syphilis can have negative side effects and may further damage your health. Instead, try natural remedies for syphilis, such as supplements, herbs, oils and tea bags first to address their condition.

Q: How long does it take to cure syphilis?

A: The symptoms that a patient experiences can determine the amount of time it’d take to cure this STD. If the symptoms are characteristic those in the early stage of the disease (such as syphilis sores or swollen glands in the neck, groin or armpits), it would take roughly two to eight weeks to be cured.

Meanwhile, patients with more “severe symptoms,” which develop during the latter stages of the infection, may heal within a few weeks, but the symptoms may come and go for several months or even a year before disappearing.11

Q: What happens if syphilis is left untreated?

A: Syphilis patients can develop health complications if this STD is left untreated, such as:12,13

Development of small bumps or tumors called gummas

Neurological problems such as neurosyphilis, stroke, visual problems, bladder incontinence and loss of pain and temperature sensations

Cardiovascular problems such as aneurysms, inflammation of the aorta and blood vessels and heart vessel damage

Optical problems such as ocular syphilis

HIV infections

Problems during pregnancy and childbirth

Q: Can syphilis kill you?

A: It can, but only if it reaches the tertiary syphilis stage (the fourth and final stage of syphilis). At this stage, the patient may also experience damage to the eyes, liver, bones and joints, and develop impairments to organ systems, such as the heart and blood vessels and the brain and the nervous system.

MORE ABOUT SYPHILIS

Syphilis: Introduction

What Is Syphilis?

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Congenital Syphilis

Syphilis Stages

Syphilis Causes

Syphilis Transmission

Syphilis Symptoms

Syphilis Treatment

Syphilis Testing

Syphilis Prevention

Syphilis FAQ

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