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Sexual Conditions Health Center

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How Is Syphilis Diagnosed?

Syphilis can be easily diagnosed with a quick and inexpensive blood test given at your doctor's office or at a public health clinic.

How Is Syphilis Treated?

If you've been infected with syphilis for less than a year, a single dose of penicillin is usually enough to destroy the infection. For those allergic to penicillin, tetracycline, doxycycline or another antibiotic can be given instead. If you are in a later stage of disease, more doses will be needed.

People who are being treated for syphilis must abstain from sexual contact until the infection is completely gone. Sexual partners of people with syphilis should be tested and, if necessary, treated.

What if Syphilis Is not Treated?

If syphilis is left untreated, it can cause serious and permanent problems such as dementia, blindness, or death.

How Does Syphilis Affect a Pregnant Woman and Her Baby?

Depending on how long a pregnant woman has been infected with syphilis, she has a good chance of having a stillbirth (birth of an infant who has died prior to delivery) or of giving birth to a baby who dies shortly after birth.

If not treated immediately, an infected baby may be born without symptoms but could develop them within a few weeks. These signs and symptoms can be very serious. Untreated babies may become developmentally delayed, have seizures, or die.

How Can I Prevent a Syphilis Infection?

To reduce your risk of syphilis infection:

  • Avoid intimate contact with a person you know is infected.
  • If you do not know if a sexual partner is infected, use a condom in every sexual encounter.

What Is the Outlook for People With Syphilis?

Syphilis is a curable disease with prompt diagnosis and treatment. However, if treated too late, there may be permanent damage to the heart and brain even after the infection is destroyed.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 14, 2014
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