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Syphilis is a bacterial infection that's usually caught by having sex with someone who's infected.
It's important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have syphilis, as it can cause serious problems if it's left untreated.
It can usually be cured with a short course of antibiotics.
You can catch syphilis more than once, even if you've been treated for it before.
This page covers:
The symptoms of syphilis aren't always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you'll usually remain infected unless you get treated.
Some people with syphilis have no symptoms.
Symptoms can include:
If it's left untreated for years, syphilis can spread to the brain or other parts of the body and cause serious, long-term problems.
Read more about the symptoms of syphilis.
You should get tested as soon as possible if you're worried you could have syphilis, because:
The best place to get tested is your nearest genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic.
The test for syphilis usually involves a blood test and removing a sample of fluid from any sores using a swab (similar to a cotton bud).
Read more about testing for syphilis.
Syphilis is usually treated with either:
You should avoid any kind of sexual activity or close sexual contact with another person until at least two weeks after your treatment finishes.
Read more about treating syphilis.
Syphilis is mainly spread through close contact with an infected sore.
This usually happens during vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys with someone who's infected. Anyone who's sexually active is potentially at risk.
Pregnant women with syphilis can also pass the infection to their unborn baby. Read more about Syphilis in pregnancy below.
It may be possible to catch syphilis if you're an injecting drug user and you share needles with somebody who's infected, or through blood transfusions (this is very rare in the UK as all blood donations are tested for syphilis).
Syphilis can't be spread by using the same toilet, clothing, cutlery or bathroom as an infected person.
Syphilis can't always be prevented, but if you're sexually active you can reduce your risk by practising safer sex:
These measures can also reduce your risk of catching other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
If you're an injecting drug user, don't use other people's needles or share your needles with others.