What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection and Blood-borne Infections (STBBI) that can cause serious harm if not treated with medication. Many individuals infected with syphilis show no symptoms. Those who do have symptoms can:

  • have a sore or a pimple that is painless, generally found on the genitals, the mouth or the tongue;
  • have a skin eruption (pimples on the body);
  • have swollen lymph glands;
  • have a fever or feel discomfort.

These symptoms disappear without treatment, but the syphilis infection remains dormant in the body. It is therefore very important to undergo treatment. Individuals who are not treated for syphilis risk serious health problems in the future (cognitive impairment, loss of sight, paralysis, cardiac lesions). In the long term, syphilis can even lead to the death of the affected person.

Syphilis is particularly dangerous for unborn children, in the case of a pregnant women getting infected. Syphilis causes malformations that interfere with the child’s development and which can result in a handicap (mental or physical) or the baby’s death.

How do you get infected with syphilis?

Syphilis is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact with an infected individual. Syphilis can also spread from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn baby.

Can syphilis be treated?

Yes, syphilis can be treated with medication (one or more injections). However, treatment does not cure the harm caused to babies or later damage to the brain or the heart. Syphilis generally does not disappear without medication.