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Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that's usually caught by having sex with someone who's infected.

It's important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have syphilis, as it can cause serious problems if it's left untreated.

It can usually be cured with a short course of antibiotics.

You can catch syphilis more than once, even if you have been treated for it before.

The symptoms of syphilis are not always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you'll usually remain infected unless you get treated.

Some people with syphilis have no symptoms.

Symptoms can include:

If it's left untreated for years, syphilis can spread to the brain or other parts of the body and cause serious long-term problems.

What to do if you think you have syphilis

You should get tested as soon as possible if you're worried you could have syphilis.

This is because:

The best place to get tested is a sexual health clinic.

The test for syphilis usually involves a blood test and removing a sample of fluid from any sores using a swab (similar to a cotton bud).

Syphilis is usually treated with either:

You should avoid any kind of sexual activity or close sexual contact with another person until at least 2 weeks after your treatment finishes.

Syphilis is mainly spread through close contact with an infected sore.

This usually happens during vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys with someone who's infected. Anyone who's sexually active is potentially at risk.

It may be possible to catch syphilis if you inject yourself with drugs and you share needles with somebody who's infected, or through blood transfusions, but this is very rare in the UK as all blood donations are tested for syphilis.

Syphilis cannot be spread by using the same toilet, clothing, cutlery or bathroom as an infected person.

Pregnant women with syphilis can pass the infection to their unborn baby.

Find out more about syphilis in pregnancy

Syphilis cannot always be prevented, but if you're sexually active you can reduce your risk by practising safer sex:

These measures can also reduce your risk of catching other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If you inject yourself with drugs, do not use other people's needles or share your needles with others.

Syphilis in pregnancy

If a woman becomes infected while she's pregnant, or becomes pregnant when she already has syphilis, it can be very dangerous for her baby if not treated.

Infection in pregnancy can cause miscarriagestillbirth or a serious infection in the baby (congenital syphilis).

Screening for syphilis during pregnancy is offered to all pregnant women so the infection can be detected and treated before it causes any serious problems.