What is it?
Syphilis is a bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). When symptoms are present there is an increased likelihood of acquiring or transmitting other STIs including HIV.
MUMS offer Syphilis testing. The cost of the test is £80.00. Sometimes we test blood, sometimes we test using swab. You will need a consultation with one of our Sexual Health Consultant which costs £85.00, or GP which costs £95.00.
There are three stages of Syphilis infection: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Primary is marked by an ulcer or sore that, left untreated, progresses to the Secondary stage that can include rash, fever, swollen glands, sore throat, hair loss, headaches and meningitis, and liver or kidney damage. The tertiary stage progresses unknown to the carrier, and may eventually damage internal organs, including the brain (dementia), nerve damage, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints.
Sores occur at the site where syphilis is acquired, including the penis, anus, rectum, vagina or the mouth and lips. Sometimes sores or ulcers do not occur. They are often painless and can go unnoticed.
If left untreated, Syphilis can cause miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths, or death of newborn babies. Syphilis in a mother will be transmitted to the unborn baby leading to many short and long term problems. All mothers who are engaging with their midwives will be offered a blood test for syphilis.
How do you get it?
It is passed from person to person through direct contact, and is commonly passed on through oral, vaginal or anal intercourse with someone with a Syphilis sore, also called a Chancre. Syphilis cannot be spread by toilet seats, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bath tubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
The first symptoms of syphilis can appear from 10-90 days (average 21 days). The first stage is marked by the appearance of the chancre or ulcer. It is often painless and can go unnoticed. This lasts one to five weeks and will heal on its own.
The second stage of syphilis can take many different forms. The most common symptoms is a rash, but patients can also develop lymph nodes, kidney or liver problems, meningitis or deafness.
The tertiary stage of syphilis can cause many different types of symptoms (and sometimes none) depending on how the infection progresses.
Times: Incubation, results and re-test
There is an incubation period of at least nine days for this test, but the patient may be recommended to retest depending on the clinical picture.
The swab test results are available in four days of the sample being received in the laboratory. This test is only possible when there are suspected symptoms and so an incubation period is not relevant.
Regular retesting is advised if you continue to be at risk. A repeat test is recommended with every partner change.
What to do if the test is positive
Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. Patients should not have sex until four weeks after the treatment has finished and the symptoms have gone away.
If a patient has had syphilis this will always show in their blood test.