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Syphilis Testing & Treatment

On This Page: Testing | Who Should Test?Diagnosis & Results | Treatment 

Syphilis is a common bacterial STD (sexually transmitted disease). In the early stages, syphilis is easily curable with antibiotics. However, it can become very serious if left undetected and untreated.

Getting tested is the only way to know if you have syphilis, and fortunately, it’s quick and easy. Getting tested can provide you peace of mind or help you get treated before you experience late-stage syphilis, which has severe and irreversible health effects like blindness and paralysis.

Take Charge of Your Health

Syphilis is a common STD that can be easily treated and cured with only one round of antibiotics when detected early. Order our confidential syphilis test then walk right into the lab nearest you. No appointment necessary.

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How Do You Test for Syphilis?

You can get tested conveniently and confidentially at one of our nationwide testing centers. Our FDA-cleared Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) syphilis test is a blood test and can be taken as soon as 3-6 weeks post-exposure. It detects the presence of antibodies, which fight the syphilis infection. If positive, a Treponemal Pallidum Assay (TPA) test is used to confirm the bacteria’s presence.

The idea of testing is scary, but it’s virtually painless and it’s a normal part of being responsible about your health. After ordering the test, you can visit the lab at your earliest convenience– no appointment or ID is needed. With a small, simple blood draw, you’ll be in and out quickly. Most results are available in 1-2 business days, and you can view them by logging into your online account.

Who Should Get Tested for Syphilis?

Any sexually active person can get syphilis through oral, vaginal, and anal sex or sexual contact. Syphilis is spread through contact with sores, also known as chancres. These sores usually appear in, on, or around the genitals but can also pop up on other parts of the body. Sometimes, only a single chancre develops, which can make it very easy to miss.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting tested for syphilis if you:1

  • Show syphilis symptoms
  • Have had sex with somebody who’s been diagnosed with syphilis
  • Are pregnant
  • Are a man who has sex with men (MSM)
  • Are living with HIV
  • Are taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for HIV prevention

Because syphilis often shows mild symptoms or none at all, you can’t tell if you have syphilis just by how you feel. You can get tested for syphilis whether or not you have sores or other symptoms. If you’ve had unprotected sex, getting tested is a good idea to put your mind at ease or get syphilis cleared up as soon as possible. Untreated syphilis can cause serious problems, including damage to the heart, blood vessels, bones, and brain.

Diagnosis & Test Results

  • A negative result means that no antibodies were found, indicating you don’t have an infection or were tested too early (before antibodies have time to develop)
  • A positive result means it’s likely you have an infection

In the event of a positive result, the presence of syphilis will be confirmed with a second test that is specific to the antibodies against the bacterium that causes syphilis.

What Should You Do If You Test Positive?

Testing positive for syphilis can be scary, but don’t panic. Syphilis is easy and quick to cure in the early stages. It’s also important you talk to your partner(s), so they can get tested and treated too.

If you test positive for syphilis through STDcheck.com, our doctors are here to offer support and guidance. Syphilis treatment usually involves a shot, so we don’t currently offer syphilis treatment through our service. However, our doctors offer a consultation to help you understand your results, learn more about the infection, and take action to get your infection cured.

A positive syphilis result helps a doctor diagnose syphilis and helps you get the necessary treatment. For your convenience, you can print or download your results from your online account to seek treatment through a care provider.

The CDC advises that all people with primary and secondary syphilis should also be tested for HIV.1 This is because having syphilis increases your risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. For your convenience, we offer a 10% discount for returning customers to confirm their sexual health.

How Is Syphilis Treated?

To cure syphilis, doctors prescribe antibiotics, usually penicillin (unless you’re allergic or can’t take it for other reasons). It’s the easiest to get rid of in the early stages (primary, secondary, or early-stage latent syphilis), when it can be cleared with a single shot. If you’ve had syphilis for a long time, multiple shots may be required. Our doctors recommend follow-up testing to be sure that all of the bacteria that causes syphilis has been cleared from your system.

It’s important to get treated as soon as possible. If you don’t treat syphilis early on, it can do serious harm. Treatment can kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not reverse or repair the damage that’s already been done.

What to Expect During Syphilis Treatment

It’s common to experience some side effects within the first 24 hours after syphilis treatment, especially for early syphilis.2

These side effects include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Headache

These symptoms are part of a common reaction called Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction or “herxing.” It can happen when large numbers of the bacteria that causes syphilis, Treponema pallidum, are killed by an antibiotic. Don’t be alarmed; it should go away within a day or so. If it continues, it’s recommended to follow up with a care provider.

Can You Get Re-Infected?

Yes. Having a previous syphilis infection does not protect you from being infected again if you’re exposed in the future.

Even if your partner doesn’t show obvious symptoms, sores can hide in hard-to-see parts of the body. That’s why you should use condoms every time you have sex. Still, highly contagious sores can pop up on uncovered areas, so condoms don’t work 100% of the time. If you have sex with someone who has syphilis, it’s recommended you get retested.

When Can You Have Sex Again?

You should wait at least 7 days after completing treatment before having sex.3 To avoid spreading syphilis, don’t have sex while you’re being treated. Even if you use a condom, it’s possible to pass the infection. To avoid being re-infected, make sure your sexual partner(s) have completed treatment too.

Treating Syphilis During Pregnancy

Treatment for syphilis during pregnancy involves an injection of penicillin, similar to the regimen for non-pregnant people. Treatment will depend on how long you’ve had syphilis and how far along your pregnancy is. According to the CDC, penicillin G is the only effective antimicrobial for preventing syphilis transmission from mother to fetus and treating fetal infection.4 Since there’s evidence that additional therapy can be beneficial for pregnant women, a doctor may administer a second shot one week after the initial dose.

If you’re allergic to penicillin, tell your care provider. They might recommend penicillin desensitization to allow you to take penicillin.

It’s especially important to get treated for syphilis if you are pregnant. Congenital syphilis (syphilis present in utero or at birth) can cause major complications and be seriously dangerous for a fetus. Syphilis can be transmitted at any stage of pregnancy. It increases the chance of a stillborn pregnancy or premature birth, and it can cause fetal death. Left untreated syphilitic babies can develop serious organ issues to the heart, brain, skin, eyes, ears, and bones. This is why all women should be screened for syphilis early in their pregnancy. Those at high risk should be screened again, early in the third trimester and at delivery.5-6

  1. “Syphilis - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm
  2. “Syphilis.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/syphilis.htm
  3. “Syphilis.” New York State Department of Health. https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/3807/
  4. “Syphilis During Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/syphilis-pregnancy.htm
  5. “Syphilis During Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/syphilis-during-pregnancy/
  6. “Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/screening-recommendations.htm

Medically Reviewed by on February 10, 2020


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