Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. It infects the genital area, lips, mouth, or anus of both men and women. You usually get syphilis from sexual contact with someone who has it. It can also pass from mother to baby during pregnancy.
The early stage of syphilis usually causes a single, small, painless sore. Sometimes it causes swelling in nearby lymph nodes. If you do not treat it, syphilis usually causes a non-itchy skin rash, often on your hands and feet. Many people do not notice symptoms for years. Symptoms can go away and come back.
The sores caused by syphilis make it easier to get or give someone HIV during sex. If you are pregnant, syphilis can cause birth defects, or you could lose your baby. In rare cases, syphilis causes serious health problems and even death.
Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics if you catch it early. Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading syphilis.
NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Diagnosis and Tests
- Syphilis Test (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Male Condoms (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Neurosyphilis (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) - Short Summary
- Tabes Dorsalis (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) - Short Summary
- Primary Syphilis (Logical Images)
Statistics and Research
- NCHHSTP Atlas (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance, 2012: Syphilis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Syphilis Profiles, 2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Syphilis (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Syphilis and MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Condom Fact Sheet in Brief (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Congenital syphilis Available in Spanish
- CSF-VDRL test Available in Spanish
- FTA-ABS test Available in Spanish
- Neurosyphilis Available in Spanish
- RPR test Available in Spanish
- Syphilis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Syphilis - primary Available in Spanish
- Syphilis and MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Available in Spanish
- VDRL test Available in Spanish