Page last reviewed 8.5.2023

Syphilis can transmit through intercourse or oral sex without a condom. In the second phase of infection it can be transmitted from infected sores without any sexual contact.

What are the symptoms of syphilis?

  • The symptoms of syphilis appear in four phases. If the infection is not treated, additional symptoms may appear later on. The initial symptoms of syphilis appear within 3 to 6 weeks from getting infected, but sometimes no symptoms appear.
  • Symptoms in the first stage can include a sore with hard edges in the genitalia, mouth or anus or enlarged lymph nodes.
  • The symptoms of the second phase appear 2 to 4 months from the end of the first phase. Symptoms in the second phase include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, headache, nausea and various skin symptoms.
  • Even if syphilis is not treated, all symptoms disappear within six months. After that, the syphilis becomes latent (hidden). It means that the infection still exists, but it does not show any symptoms.
  • Untreated syphilis infection may develop into tertiary syphilis, which may appear several years after the original infection. The infection and symptoms may appear all over the body: skin, central nervous system or heart.

When and how should I get tested?

  • The test can be taken after 3-6 weeks of the suspected transmission.
  • The test is a blood sample.

How can I protect myself and how is it treated?

  • The treatment for syphilis is antibiotic injections. After receiving all the injections, a new blood sample is taken to check that the infection has been removed.
  • To protect yourself against syphilis, use a condom and dental dam. If you have anal sex, use a condom and lubricant.