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Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists

 Confidential and expert care                                                                                                                      703 532-1100


  Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the spirochete bacteria Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, but can have serious complications if not treated soon after infection. Both men and women can have syphilis, and it can be passed on from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn infant.

  Syphilis occurs in 3 stages. In stages 1 and 2 a person is infectious during sexual contact. The condition is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with an infected area. Sores develop on the site that has touched the infectious area. Depending on the type of sexual contact, sores may therefore appear on or near the genitals, lips, fingers or anus. The hard, usually painless sores can appear any time between 10 days to 3 months after acquiring the infection. Two to four months after infection there may be symptoms including a skin rash, patchy hair loss, fever, lumps around the genitals and anus, or general tiredness. If not treated, these symptoms may disappear and then recur over the next two years. The rash can be all over the body and is very contagious. An infected, but untreated, person may remain infectious through sexual contact for 2 years. The third stage occurs in about one third of untreated individuals, and some people develop severe complications involving the brain, heart, or spinal cord. Blood tests are used to detect syphilis infection. After treatment with antibiotics, further blood tests are done to check that the infection has been cured. Do not have sex until the follow-up test is clear. Recent sex partners need to be tested and treated.

Understanding Syphilis (STDs #1)

Syphilis is one of the oldest sexually transmitted diseases (think Henry the VIII) but it's still prominent today.