Rates of syphilis are worryingly high – in 2018 they were the highest they’ve been in 70 years.
Despite this, a lot of us think of syphilis as an ‘old-timey’ disease, which it’s quite clearly not.
So with the STI running rampant, we think it’s time for every sex-having person to get clued up on the signs and symptoms, so they can make sure to get treatment as early into the illness as possible.
And, of course, it’s a handy reminder to please, please go for regular checkups and use protection for every sexual contact.
Syphilis shows no signs of slowing down, and that’s an issue.
What are the symptoms of syphilis?
The complicated bit of syphilis is that often it won’t cause any noticeable symptoms, and the symptoms you do experience can disappear quickly, even though the infection remains.
There are some symptoms which can indicate syphilis, however.
These tend to come in different stages.
In the early stage, also called primary and secondary syphilis, and in the late stage, also called tertiary syphilis, symptoms will be apparent, but during the middle stage, called the latent stage, there are none.
Symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis:
Small, painless ulcers, called chancres, around the penis, vulva, anus, or mouth.
These ulcers are highly infectious.
A blotchy red rash, often found on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
This is usually painless.
Flat, wart-like growths on the vulva, penis, or around the anus.
Flu-like symptoms including tiredness, high temperature, and loss of appetite.
White patches on the tongue, cheeks, or roof of the mouth Patchy hair loss.
If left untreated, syphilis will progress to the latent stage, where there will likely be no visible symptoms, and will then move to the late stage.
Symptoms of tertiary syphilis:
Swollen glands in the neck, groin, or armpits.
If left untreated for years, syphilis can spread and cause serious damage to the nervous system, brain, and heart.
How can you catch syphilis?
Syphilis can be passed on through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, even with no noticeable symptoms, as well as through blood transfusions and sharing needles.
It can also be transmitted through contact with the ulcers of someone who has syphilis.
What should you do if you think you might have syphilis?
If you’re worried about syphilis, go to your GP or to a sexual health clinic as soon as possible, as the only way you can know you have it is by getting tested.
It’s crucial to get early treatment, so don’t put it off.
Remember that there may not be noticeable symptoms, so you must get a sexual health clinic any time you have unprotected sex.
How is syphilis treated?
Syphilis is usually treated with antibiotics, whether in the form of an injection or tablets.
This is very effective in the primary, secondary, and latent stages.
In the tertiary stage of syphilis, the infection can still be treated and cured, but by this point it may have done irreversible damage to the body.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get early treatment.
Between six and twelve weeks after treatment you’ll need to have a check-up test to make sure the infection is cleared.
If left untreated, syphilis can spread to other parts of the body, causing serious issues longterm that could be fatal.
It won’t go away without treatment.