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Syphilis Tests

How It Is Done continued...

A sample of fluid or tissue may be taken from an open sore or from a rash that might be caused by syphilis.

  • A fluid sample is obtained by gently pressing the sore.
  • Skin or mucous membrane samples may be obtained by gently rubbing a cotton-tipped swab over the area.

Spinal fluid sample

A spinal tap (lumbar puncture) is done to collect a spinal fluid sample for syphilis testing.

For a lumbar puncture, a thin needle is inserted into the spinal canal in the lower back. After the needle is in place, a small amount of fluid is removed from the spinal canal. To learn more, see the topic Lumbar Puncture.

How It Feels

Blood sample

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Sore or skin sample

You may feel some discomfort when fluid is collected from an open sore. But syphilis sores usually are not very tender or painful.

Spinal fluid sample

You may feel some discomfort during a lumbar puncture to collect spinal fluid. To learn more, see the topic Lumbar Puncture.

Risks

Blood sample

There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.

Bleeding can be a problem for people who have bleeding disorders or who take blood-thinning medicines such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin). If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Sore or skin sample

There is very little risk of problems from having a sample taken from an open sore, skin rash, or mucous membrane.

Spinal fluid sample

There is little risk linked with having a lumbar puncture to obtain a spinal fluid sample. To learn more, see the topic Lumbar Puncture.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
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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