What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterium which can be potentially life threatening if it is not treated. New cases of Syphilis infection are on the rise in Ireland.


How can I catch it?

It is passed from person to person through direct contact with a Syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, mouth or in the rectum. They are quite distinctive to look at.

Syphilis can be passed on from a mother to child during birth. Congenital Syphilis in babies causes irreversible health problems, or death in as many as 40% of all live babies born to women with an untreated infection. If you are pregnant, getting tested is very important.

Did you know? …

Syphilis can lead to heart and sight problems if left untreated. It is easily curable with antibiotics if you are tested and treated early enough.

What are the signs and symptoms?

There are three stages of Syphilis infection: primary, secondary and tertiary. There can be long periods of time between the phases, particularly between the secondary and tertiary phase. This is called the latent phase. In between the phases, the patient often has no symptoms.

Primary Syphilis is marked by a sore. This is usually in the genital area, but oral syphilis is becoming increasingly common. The sore lasts two days to two weeks. After this, the patient may not experience further symptoms.

If the primary phase is left untreated, six weeks to six months later secondary symptoms will usually occur. These can include:

  • Rashes
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Sore throat
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches.

There may be a period of months or years before the tertiary stage. During this latent period, damage to internal organs may occur, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart and other areas of the body. The tertiary stage of Syphilis can be fatal.

How can I test for Syphilis?

A small blood sample is needed for the test. Results are available the same day that your sample is received in the laboratory. At some Better2Know clinics in Ireland, you can have an instant test with results available in around 20 minutes.

If left untreated, what are the health risks?

An untreated case of Syphilis can be fatal or cause long-term damage to vital organs. There is an increased risk of contracting other STIs including HIV as the immune system is weaker. It is important to get tested regularly and to get the infection treated as early as possible.

For pregnant women, there can be further complications which may include miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths, or death of new-born babies. There is also risk of deformities, delays in development or seizures along with many other problems such as rash, fever, swollen liver and spleen, anaemia and jaundice. If it is undiagnosed in infants, it can cause damage to their bones, teeth, eyes, ears, and brain.

What if I test positive for Syphilis?

Syphilis can usually be cured with antibiotics. You can choose whether to receive treatment through your Better2Know doctor, your own GP or your local health services. Your choice of clinician will be able to prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic for you, depending on how far your infection has progressed.

It is important to get tested and treated as soon as possible to avoid your infection advancing to a later stage. As Syphilis develops, it may become harder to cure and can result in irreversible effects on your health.

If you have tested positive for Syphilis using a home test kit, we will help you to decide on the appropriate next steps to take. We can arrange a doctor’s consultation for you, whereby the doctor will receive a copy of your results, discuss your diagnosis and prescribe you the appropriate antibiotic or advise on alternative next steps. Simply phone us on the number at the top of the page to book your private GP appointment.

You should be aware that, after successfully completing treatment, repeat Syphilis testing may still indicate the presence of antibodies even when your primary infection has been successfully treated. Your Better2Know advisor can discuss this and other aspects of diagnosing Syphilis further with you.

Book your Syphilis test

Better2Know is the world’s largest private provider of sexual health testing services. We will arrange a confidential appointment at a clinic near you with fast and accurate results for your peace of mind. Book online or call our Sexual Health Advisors now.