What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by an infection of the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can also be spread to a fetus by an infected mother during pregnancy. A simple blood test can check for this bacterial infection.

Syphilis can be prevented and is easily treated in its early stages. Despite this, its transmission both through sexual contact and during pregnancy has been on the rise in the United States in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (Source: CDC).

Any person of any age who 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 a syphilis infection.

Left untreated, a syphilis infection can stay in the body for years and progress to serious or life-threatening complications, such as dementia, aortic aneurysm, and stillbirth in a pregnant woman. Using safer sex practices, seeking regular medical care, and seeking early, regular prenatal care can help reduce the risk of serious complications of syphilis.


What are the symptoms of syphilis?

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 has distinct symptoms.

Symptoms of primary syphilis

Primary syphilis is the first stage of syphilis. Symptoms include:


What causes syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterial infection of the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can be passed from one person to another during sexual contact that involves vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Syphilis infection can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy.

Any person of any age who engages in sexual activity can c... Read more about syphiliscauses


How is syphilis treated?

Treatment of syphilis begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to best assess your risks of catching syphilis and promptly order further diagnostic testing as needed. These measures greatly increase the chances of diagnosing and treating syphilis in its earliest, most curable stage.

Prompt diagnosis an... Read more about syphilistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.