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Syphilis Tests

How It Is Done continued...

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

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

Fluid from a sore that may be caused by syphilis sometimes is collected and examined with a special type of microscope (darkfield microscope).

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 area. After the needle is in place, a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) 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 have some discomfort when fluid is collected from an open sore (chancre). But chancres usually are not very tender or painful.

Spinal fluid sample

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

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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