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Syphilis Tests

Why It Is Done continued...

A test for syphilis is done to:

  • Screen for syphilis or check treatment for a syphilis infection. Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease or condition before any symptoms appear. This increases the chance of finding the infection when it can be cured or treated to avoid long-term problems.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend that all pregnant women be screened for syphilis early in pregnancy.1, 2
  • Confirm that a syphilis infection is present.

Screening for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is often done for people who engage in sexual behaviors that put them at risk. If you have syphilis, your sex partner or partners should be notified, tested, and treated to prevent serious complications and to stop the spread of the disease.

How To Prepare

Tell your doctor if you:

  • Are taking any medicines, such as antibiotics.
  • Are allergic to any medicines, especially antibiotics, or medicine used to numb the skin (anesthetics).
  • Have had bleeding problems or take blood-thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Are or might be pregnant.

If you have syphilis, do not have sex until the test results show you are no longer infected or until you and your sex partner or partners have completed treatment and the infection has been cured. Your sex partners should be tested as well.

If you think you might have syphilis, do not have sex until testing shows that you are not infected.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

A syphilis test may be done on a sample of blood, sore, skin, or spinal fluid, depending on which type of test is done.

Blood sample

The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol. Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood. Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the site and then put on a bandage.

Sore or skin sample

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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