A few things to know about syphilis
Syphilis is on the rise. In fact, the majority of syphilis cases in Massachusetts and the U.S. are among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Here are a few things you should know about the common STD.
Syphilis is passed from person-to-person through direct contact with a syphilis sore or rash. Sores are usually painless and can occur on or around the penis or anus, in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. A rash could appear anywhere, yet the most common areas are on the chest, back, abdomen, hands, and feet.
Anyone who has sex can get syphilis. In fact, the only way to avoid getting syphilis (or any other STD) is by not having sex. Using condoms the correct way can prevent contact with sores, yet it’s not foolproof since sores can be present in areas not covered by the condom.
Syphilis has stages. What’s important to know about them is that syphilis is most commonly spread in the early stages and unlikely to show signs of major health problems until the later ones.
During the early—or active—stages, syphilis can cause symptoms including sores, skin rash, and fever. These symptoms can often go unnoticed, especially if they appear inside the body or out of plain sight.
The symptoms of syphilis eventually go away, yet the virus can remain in the body if left untreated. During this time, syphilis can silently do damage and may lead to severe medical problems in the eyes, heart, brain, and other vital organs.
You may not have any signs of syphilis. In fact, many people who have syphilis don’t show symptoms, yet they can still pass the STD to partners though a hidden sore or rash.
The only way to know you have syphilis is to get tested. Your doctor may examine you for signs of syphilis, yet a blood test is the only way to determine if you have the STD.
Syphilis is curable. Your doctor can prescribe medicine to cure syphilis. However, treatment won’t undo any damage that the infection has already done. That’s why it’s good to be tested regularly and treated if necessary.
You (and your partners) can get syphilis again and again. Even after effective treatment, it’s possible to become re-infected with syphilis. Get tested often and make sure your partners do as well.
Need help talking to your partners about testing and treatment? The Partner Services Program can help.
Get tested! What are you waiting for? Get tested every three to six months—or at least once a year at your annual checkup. See your doctor or search testing sites near you.