Syphilis

The information below was provided by the STD Program of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

Free Syphilis Blood Test

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is spread by coming in direct contact with an open sore or rash of someone who is infected. It is usually spread through oral, anal or vaginal sex, but can also be spread by coming in contact with a sore or rash of an infected person by touching or kissing.

How do you know if you have Syphilis?

Primary Syphilis

The first symptoms show up within 10-90 days (usually about 3 weeks) after a person becomes infected with syphilis. A sore called a chancre [SHANK-er] appears on the genitals, anus, mouth or fingertips. It lasts for 1-5 weeks. The chancre is a moist open sore and is usually painless. Syphilis is easiest to treat in this stage.

Secondary Syphilis

Symptoms may include all, some or none of the following: Body rash (many times on palms or soles), low-grade fever or sore throat. Symptoms usually show up 4-10 weeks after getting a chancre and go away in 2-6 weeks, even without treatment.

Latent Syphilis

This stage can last up to 20 years. You may not have any symptoms but a blood test will show that you are still infected.

What happens if Syphilis is left untreated?

About 1/3 of all people who aren't treated for syphilis suffer serious damage to the heart, brain, nerves in the spine, eyes, bones or joints.

Getting Tested

  • Because syphilis may not cause any obvious problems and you may not know you have the disease, it is important to get tested.
  • A simple blood test can determine whether or not you have the disease.

Getting Treated

  • Syphilis is most commonly treated with injected penicillin, or tetracycline or doxycycline for those who are allergic to penicillin.
  • Get treated as soon as possible. Damage done in late syphilis is irreversible.

How can I avoid getting Syphilis?

  • Because syphilis can be spread through direct contact with infected material, condoms may NOT be completely effective in preventing the spread of syphilis. But condoms are still the best protection and should be used during vaginal, oral and anal sex.
  • Before having sex with a new partner, you should both get tested.
  • Get tested on a regular basis if you are sexually active.

Resources & Links:

Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center Monday - Friday, 11:30 am - 3 pm 1625 N. Schrader Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 (2 blocks West of Caheunga off of Hollywood Blvd.) - or - make an appointment at the STD clinic by calling (323) 993-7500

STD Testing/Treatment sites in L.A. County - Easy Online Search

L.A. County Department of Health Services STD Program

Syphilis Outbreak, A Letter to the Community - PDF