Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum.
How do you get Syphilis?
Syphilis is transmitted by unprotected sex, including oral sex.
How do you know if you’ve got Syphilis?
There are 3 stages with different symptoms. Sore In the first stage of the disease you can get a painless sore on your genitals. The sore can also be inside your mouth, rectum or vagina, which is why it can be easily missed. The sore appears approximately 3 weeks after you have been infected.
In the second stage of the disease you can get a rash on the body. On the palms of your hands and soles of your feet you can get small circular shaped blisters. Swollen lymph glands are normal. Some people feel ill with influenza like symptoms.
If you’ve had untreated syphilis for several years, symptoms from the central nervous system and or cardiovascular system(heart) can appear. It is not unusual that you don’t notice or don’t have symptoms of syphilis. This is when the disease is called latent. A blood test can reveal the infection.
How do you get tested?
If you have a sore a swab will be taken. A blood test can show antibodies approx. 2-6 weeks after infection, and occasionally up to 12 weeks will pass before the infection can be seen. A few patients require further tests from the cerebrospinal fluid.
When is Syphilis contagious?
Syphilis is contagious in the diseases first and second stage, i.e. the first 2 years after infection.
How can you protect yourself from becoming infected with Syphilis?
Using a condom gives good protection against Syphilis as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. However, Syphilis is also transmitted through oral sex.
How is syphilis treated?
Syphilis is treated with antibiotics by either injection or pills.
Treatment with antibiotic injections
Treatment is a penicillin (benzathine penicillin, Tardocillin) given as an intramuscular injection in the buttock.
The injection can be repeated with a week’s interval 3 times, depending on how developed the infection is. It is important that you come for all the injections, as otherwise the treatment is ineffective.
The treatment may cause shivers and a fever (39-40 degrees C) at around 4-6 hours after the first injection. This reaction lasts approx. 8 hours. It is thought that this reaction is due to the Syphilis dying. You can help these symptoms by taking e.g. 1g paracetamol (Panodil, Pinex, or Pamol) max. 4 times a day.
Treatment with antibiotic tablets
Syphilis can also be treated with pills (Doxycycline 100mg x 2 daily for 14-28 days).
The treatment may give side effects in the form of stomach ache and diarrhea. In rare cases people can develop an allergic reaction in the form of a rash, hives and other.
You should avoid sunbathing and solariums as the treatment may make your skin sensitive to light.
Is there a reason to be checked after the treatment?
Yes. To be sure that the treatment has been effective, you should come for a blood test 3 and 6 months after the treatment has finished.
When am I cured?
You should use a condom 3 weeks after the treatment is finished or until the sore or rash has vanished completely. This is also relevant for oral sex.
Three weeks after the treatment is finished you are not contagious.
Who should I tell if I have Syphilis?
Chains of infection can be broken by finding the sexual partners of the infected. Therefore, it’s important to inform all sexual partners that could have been infected – so they can be checked for infection and possibly treated.
If you don’t know exactly when you were infected and have syphilis in the first stage, then all sex partners should be informed within the last three months. If you have second stage or latent syphilis your sex partners should be informed within the last 24 months.
If you’d rather not inform your partners, you can ask the staff at the out-patient clinic to help you with anonymous information letters.