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Syphilis is an infection caused by a bacterium. Its symptoms include painless ulcers (lesions or wounds) around the genitals, anus, or mouth. If it’s not treated, the infection can cause very serious long-term complications and even death.


Syphilis is transmitted by contact with the vagina, anus, or mouth of an infected person during unprotected sex, even if penetration doesn’t take place. A mother can also transmit the infection to her baby while giving birth. You can catch this infection more than once in your life.


Symptoms may appear 10 to 90 days after contact with the infected person. Some people don’t have any symptoms. They don’t know they have the infection and so they can spread it.

The infection is often localized in the mouth, throat, lips, tongue, genitals, or anal region (anus and rectum). The lymph nodes around these areas may be swollen, creating lumps.

The ulcers may disappear without treatment but that doesn’t mean the person is cured. The infection is still there and still contagious until it’s cured by medical treatment.

Later, there may be some redness, sometimes accompanied by fatigue, headaches, and fever. Like the ulcers, these symptoms may disappear without treatment, but the infection is still there.

Screening and treatment 🔍

Screening is done during a medical examination and blood test. The symptoms may be visible to the naked eye at some points in the infection.

Syphilis is treated with antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. You must avoid sex during the treatment until you get a negative screening test.


To avoid catching or spreading syphilis, use a condom during vaginal and anal sex. Also use a condom or a dental dam (a sheet of latex that protects the mouth) during oral sex. Finally, ask your sexual partners to see a doctor and take a screening test, even if they don’t have any symptoms.