Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria called Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can spread due unprotected sexual activity, including oral and anal sex with an infected person. It can cause very serious health problems if left untreated. It is simple to cure with the right treatment. In the United States the rate of syphilis has been declining in women but rising in men.


Symptoms of syphilis

Syphilis is divided into primary, secondary, latent and tertiary stages. There are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.

  • Small, painless sores (chancres) in the sexual organs or mouth
  • Non-itchy skin rash, often on your hands and feet
  • Swelling in nearby lymph nodes
  • White patches in the mouth
  • Mental illness
  • Headache
  • Aching joints
  • High fever
  • Swollen glands in neck, groin or armpits
  • Weight loss
  • Often lead to blindness and deafness


The syphilis test is also known as RPR (Rapid plasma reagin) and is performed with a blood sample.

When to test: If you are sexually active, pregnant or considering pregnancy, or at increased risk for this sexually transmitted disease (STD); if you have symptoms of a syphilis infection, if you have another STD, or are pregnant.

 The result will be accurate three weeks after contact, but might take as long as three months.

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