Syphilis Test Kit | Just Between Us

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What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection which can be transmitted person-to-person through close contact with an infected sore, which usually occurs during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be transmitted by sharing sex toys or needles with an infected person.

The bacteria that cause syphilis are called Treponema pallidum.

Syphilis symptoms

Syphilis is a disease of three stages, with distinct symptoms:

Primary Syphilis (Stage 1)

The first symptom of syphilis is a painless but highly infectious sore on the genitals, or sometimes around the mouth, lips, tonsils, fingers or buttocks. The sore usually disappears two to six weeks after it erupts. Left untreated, syphilis will then progress to the second stage.

Secondary Syphilis (Stage 2)

Secondary syphilis symptoms include a non-itchy skin rash, flu-like symptoms, small skin growths around the external opening of the vagina and/or anus, weight loss, swollen glands and patchy hair loss. These symptoms typically develop a few weeks after the sore disappears and may disappear within a few weeks, or come and go over a period of months. During this stage, syphilis can be passed on to other people.

Following secondary symptoms, without treatment syphilis progresses to a symptomless latent (dormant) phase, which may last for several years. During this phase, the disease cannot be passed on to other people.

After a period of dormancy, syphilis can develop to the most dangerous stage:

Tertiary Syphilis (Stage 3)

Left untreated, approximately a third of people with syphilis will develop serious tertiary syphilis symptoms, which can arise years or decades after initial infection.

Depending on what part of the body the infection spreads to (brain, nerves, eyes, heart, bones, skin, blood vessels), tertiary syphilis can present with any of the following symptoms:

  • skin rashes
  • stroke
  • dementia
  • loss of co-ordination
  • numbness
  • paralysis
  • blindness
  • deafness
  • heart disease

Tertiary syphilis can be fatal.

Syphilis treatment

Primary and secondary syphilis are usually treatable with a single dose of penicillin, which is injected into the buttock. Some cases require multiple penicillin injections, which are administered at weekly intervals.

For those allergic to penicillin, an alternative antibiotic is prescribed in tablet form.
Tertiary syphilis must be treated with longer courses of antibiotics, and while treatment can stop the infection, it cannot repair or reverse the damage that has already been caused.

If your results indicate you may have a blood-borne STI, you will be contacted directly by the Terrence Higgins Trust, regarding confirmatory testing, treatment, advice and the availability of other services.

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