What is it?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be passed on, (through sexual contact or skin contact with someone with syphilis rashes or sores), by both men and women. There are three developmental stages of syphilis; primary, secondary and tertiary syphilis.
What are the symptoms?
As with most STI's symptoms may not show for months after contracting the infection, in some people mild symptoms may show. The symptoms for syphilis are roughly the same in both men and women.
Sores appear where the infection entered the body, usually 3-4 weeks after coming into contact. The sores are very infectious and may be anywhere on the body, although they are usually found in the genital region. If left untreated it will progress into secondary syphilis.
This stage is also very infectious and can last several weeks or months. Symptoms may include painless rashes over the body, growths around the anus, white patches in the mouth, hair loss and a flu like illness.
At this stage there may be no more symptoms showing although it will still be infectious. Syphilis can remain in some people for the rest of their lives. If let untreated, after many years, syphilis can damage the heart, brain, nervous system and other vital organs and can be fatal.
Tests and treatment
If you think you may have come into contact with syphilis or have symptoms you should visit your doctor or nearest GUM clinic. They may need to do a blood test and take a urine sample, as well as carrying out an examination.