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Syphilis: Introduction

Syphilis is one type of sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis is the result of a bacterial infection of the genital tract by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is passed from one person another during direct sexual contact with a syphilis lesion that involves vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Syphilis can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy and result in stillbirth or serious birth defects.

Any person that engages in sexual activity can contract and pass on syphilis. This includes heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual men and women. The more sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of catching syphilis. Syphilis also increases the risk of HIV infection, which causes AIDS

Syphilis that is caught early in the first stage of the infection can be quickly and easily treated. If not promptly recognized and treated, syphilis will progress through three stages. Each stage of syphilis has distinct symptoms. The first stage is characterized by the development of a lesion called a chancre. The chancre usually develops in the genital area, but it can develop on the lips, tongue or rectum if these areas have been exposed to a syphilis chancre on another person during oral or anal sexual contact.

If left untreated, the syphilis infection can last for years and can lead to serious complications in the third and final stage of the disease. Complications include dementia, paralysis, blindness and aortic aneurysm. For more details on complications and symptoms, refer to symptoms of syphilis.

Making a diagnosis of syphilis includes performing a blood test for syphilis. Diagnosis also includes taking a medical and sexual history and completing a physical and pelvic examination for women and an exam of the penis and testicles for men. During the examination, the health care practitioner will examine the reproductive organs for a syphilis chancre and signs of other sexually transmitted diseases.

During this exam the health care practitioner will take a swab sample of the woman's cervix or the man's urethra and have it tested for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases because catching one sexually transmitted disease increases the risk of catching others. A blood HIV test may also be recommended. If there is a syphilis chancre or lesion present, a sample of it may be sent to the laboratory to look for the syphilis bacteria under a microscope.

Because a chancre may not be noticeable in women when it is in the vagina, some infected women may be unaware of a problem, and a diagnosis of syphilis can be missed or delayed. A diagnosis may be missed for other reasons as well. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of syphilis.

The first step in the treatment of syphilis is prevention. Prevention of syphilis is best accomplished by abstaining from sexual activity or having sex only within a mutually monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Latex condoms also provide some protection when used properly.

Treatment of the first stage of syphilis includes antibiotic therapy. Treatment also includes notifying and treating all sexual partners. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of syphilis. ...more »

Syphilis: Syphilis, once a cause of devastating epidemics, can be effectively diagnosed and treated with antibiotic therapy. In 1996, 11 ... more about Syphilis.

Syphilis: A sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacteria (Treponema pallidum). The condition is often asymptomatic in the early stages but one or more sores may be present in the early stages. Untreated syphilis usually results in remission of visible symptoms but further severe damage may occur to internal organs and other body tissues which can result in death. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Syphilis is available below.

Syphilis: Symptoms

Syphilis is an infection that can stay in the body for years if not recognized and treated promptly. There are three stages of syphilis, and each stage of syphilis has distinct symptoms.

The first stage (primary syphilis) is characterized by the development of a painless lesion called a chancre. The chancre usually develops in the genital area. It can also develop on the lips, ...more symptoms »

Syphilis: Treatments

Treatment of syphilis starts with prevention. Prevention measures include seeking regular medical care throughout a lifetime. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to best evaluate a person's individual risks of catching syphilis and regularly test for the disease. These measures greatly increase the chances of catching and curing syphilis in its ...more treatments »

Syphilis: Misdiagnosis

A prompt diagnosis and treatment of syphilis increases the chances of curing the sexually transmitted disease before it can progress into later stages and result in serious complications.

Syphilis is relatively easy to diagnose, but a diagnosis can be missed or delayed because chancre lesions are painless and there may be no visible chancre lesions in a woman. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Syphilis

Treatments for Syphilis

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Syphilis:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Syphilis?

Syphilis: Related Patient Stories

Syphilis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Syphilis.

Types of Syphilis

Diagnostic Tests for Syphilis

Test for Syphilis in your own home

Click for Tests
  • Swab of chancre - in primary and secondary syphilis phases
  • Swab/scraping test
  • Syphilis blood tests
  • VDRL (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory) test
  • RPR (rapid plasma reagin) test
  • more tests...»

Syphilis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Syphilis:

Causes of Syphilis

Read more about causes of Syphilis.

More information about causes of Syphilis:

Disease Topics Related To Syphilis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Syphilis:

Syphilis: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Syphilis

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Syphilis: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Syphilis

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Syphilis:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Syphilis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Syphilis: Animations

Prognosis for Syphilis

Research about Syphilis

Visit our research pages for current research about Syphilis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Syphilis

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Syphilis include:

Prevention of Syphilis

Prevention information for Syphilis has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Syphilis.

Statistics for Syphilis

Syphilis: Broader Related Topics

Syphilis Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Syphilis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Syphilis

Syphilis, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

Syphilis, once a cause of devastating epidemics, can be effectively diagnosed and treated with antibiotic therapy. In 1996, 11,387 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in the United States were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although treatment is available, the early symptoms of syphilis can be very mild, and many people do not seek treatment when they first become infected. Of increasing concern is the fact that syphilis increases the risk of transmitting and acquiring the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. (Source: excerpt from Syphilis, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

Syphilis: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacteria (Treponema pallidum). The disease proceeds via four stages as the bacteria makes it's way to different organs in the body. The early symptoms of syphilis can be very mild during the early stages; later, when syphilis is no longer contagious,untreated syphilis can cause serious heart abnormalities, mental disorders, blindness, other neurological problems, and death. There is growing concern about the increased susceptibility to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, for those in the early stages of syphilis, if they have sex with someone infected with HIV. (Source: excerpt from Syphilis: NWHIC)

Definitions of Syphilis:

The causative agent of venereal and non-venereal syphilis as well as yaws. - (Source - Diseases Database)

A common venereal disease caused by the Treponema pallidum spirochete; symptoms change through progressive stages; can be congenital (transmitted through the placenta) - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Syphilis is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Syphilis, or a subtype of Syphilis, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)


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