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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Syphilis

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Syphilis FAQ

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  • Sexually active people who engage in unprotected sex or have sex with multiple partners, as well as men who have sex with other men 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 bacterium.1 It can affect people all over the world, with young adults aged 20 to 35 considered the highest-risk group.2 Sexually active people who engage in unprotected sex, those diagnosed with an HIV infection and men who have sex with men may also have a higher risk for syphilis.3,4,5

Q: How do you get syphilis?

A: Syphilis can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex when you have direct contact with a syphilis sore or chancre. You can also be infected by sharing sex toys, undergoing a blood transfusion or through direct unprotected contact with an active lesion, typically during kissing.6,7,8,9

Q: What are the symptoms of syphilis?

A: Syphilis symptoms develop in stages10 and tend to go unnoticed at first because they’re “mild” and may be confused with symptoms from other types of infections.11 You may first notice the appearance of one or more small and painless syphilis sores or chancres on the penis, vagina or around the anus,12 or in some cases, on the lips, fingers or buttocks. Other signs of syphilis include swollen glands in the neck, groin or armpits.13

Q: What does syphilis look like?

A: If the syphilis infection is already in the late stages, you can develop symptoms like syphilis rash, small skin growths that look like genital warts, swollen glands or white patches in the mouth.14

Q: How long does syphilis last?

A: It typically takes 21 days for syphilis symptoms to appear, although some indicators can develop 10 to 90 days after the infection.15 How long syphilis affects someone depends on the stage of the infection that they are in. The four known stages of syphilis are as follows:16,17,18

Primary Stage — Syphilis sores, which usually appear at this stage, can take three to six weeks to heal, whether you 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.

Latent Stage — At this stage, symptoms aren’t visible, and those 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 treatments are used.

Q: Can syphilis be cured?

A: Yes, syphilis is a curable STD.19 But take note that antibiotics and other medications typically recommended for the treatment of syphilis20,21 possess side effects that may further damage your health. If your attending physician agrees, you may want to try natural remedies for syphilis, such as herbs,22,23 teas24 and essential oils25,26,27,28 to address your condition.

Q: How long does it take to cure syphilis?

A: The symptoms that appear can determine the amount of time it’d take to cure this STD. If the symptoms are characteristic of those in the early stage of the disease (such as syphilis sores), it would take roughly three to six weeks for them to heal.29 Meanwhile, if you are in the secondary stage, your symptoms may heal within a few weeks, but they may come and go for several months or even a year before disappearing.30

Q: What happens if syphilis is left untreated?

A: Those with syphilis can develop health complications if it’s left untreated, such as development of small bumps or tumors (gummas), neurological, cardiovascular or optical problems, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.31,32

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, you may experience damage to the eyes, liver, bones and joints, and develop health problems that target the heart and blood vessels, and the brain and nervous system.33,34,35


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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