Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be passed on through oral, vaginal or anal sex.

Syphilis: an overview

Syphilis is a bacterial infection.

You can order an online testing kit for free through our website to see if you have syphilis. Syphilis can be effectively treated with antibiotic injections or tablets, though the length of treatment depends on the stage of infection.

Click here for more information on syphilis.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of syphilis?

Syphilis has three stages: primary, secondary, and latent. Symptoms depend on the stage of the infection.

Primary syphilis causes an ulcer at the site of infection and swelling of lymph glands. This occurs in the first three months of infections. The ulcer is highly infectious, but it is painless and usually disappears without treatment. It may not even be noticed at all.

Secondary syphilis can cause skin problems (usually a rash) and swelling of lymph glands anywhere on the body. This usually occurs in the first six months of infection. The rash will get better without treatment.

Latent syphilis is what happens more than two years after infection. Many people experience serious consequences at this stage, when syphilis can affect bones, skin, the heart, or central nervous system, and may be life threatening.

How do I know if I've got it?

The test for syphilis is a blood sample.

If you are getting a test in clinic, this is usually from a nurse who will take a blood sample with a needle.

If you're doing one of our postal STI tests, the syphilis test is also done via a finger prick. You can watch the blood test instruction video and follow this link to see the instruction leaflet that comes in the kit.

Syphilis may take twelve weeks to show up in a test from the time of infection. If you are in any doubt about window periods, you should do a test now, and another test at a later date.

If you have had syphilis in the past, it's also worth knowing that some tests (such as rapid tests or postal tests), might always come back positive for syphilis, even if you've been treated. If you have had a previous infection, we can run extra tests to see if it's a recent or old infection that's been treated.

As soon as your test results become available, we will send you a text message to let you know how to get treatment.

Can it be treated?

Syphilis is treated effectively by antibiotic injections or tablets. The length of treatment depends on the stage of infection.

How can it be prevented?

Condoms can help prevent syphilis and are available at sexual health clinics, or you can order these online for free.

Testing each time you change your sexual partner can help reduce the spread of all STIs.

What will happen if I have syphilis but I don’t get it treated?

The effects of latent syphilis on the bones, skin, heart and central nervous system may be serious.

For more information on syphilis click here.