Syphilis is a very serious STI that is passed from one person to another through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex. If untreated, syphilis can eventually affect your entire body and may lead to brain damage, heart disease, paralysis and death. Like other STIs, a person infected with syphilis may not show any symptoms at all and may unknowingly pass the disease on to others. Syphilis, if treated early, is curable with antibiotics.

Not everyone develops visible symptoms of syphilis. You may be infected and unknowingly pass the disease on to others. You can help protect yourself against syphilis by using condoms and dental dams when you have sex. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, so get tested if you have had unprotected sex with someone.  Testing is done with a blood sample.

Tell your partner if you’ve been infected with syphilis so they can get tested and treated. The longer you have untreated syphilis, the more damage it can do to your body. Find more information on syphilis and how to protect yourself at:

Syphilis, in both males and females, develops in four stages.

Stage One Syphilis

A painless sore called a chancre (pronounced kanker) may appear between 9 and 90 days after contact with an infected person. It develops at the spot where the bacteria entered the body, usually on the penis, inside or around the vagina, or inside the mouth or anus. Sores inside the vagina and anus often go unnoticed and may disappear if not treated. But even if the sore goes away, the bacteria stays in the body and the disease may progress to stage two.

Stage Two Syphilis

From six weeks to six months after infection, flu-like symptoms may be felt. For some people, a rash appears over the entire body and is most noticeable on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Like Stage One, symptoms in Stage Two can disappear without any treatment. But remember, the syphilis bacteria stays in the body and the disease may progress to Stage Three.

Stage Three Syphilis

In Stage Three the disease lays dormant (asleep) in the body and the infected person has no symptoms. But, the syphilis bacteria may continue to grow and multiply. This stage can last from 1 to 30 years and may eventually lead to Stage Four – the most damaging stage of all.

Stage Four Syphilis

Years after you’re first infected, untreated syphilis can cause blindness, brain damage, heart disease, paralysis and even death.

Congenital Syphilis

If a pregnant woman is infected with syphilis, she can pass the disease to her unborn baby. Babies born with syphilis may be blind, deaf or mentally delayed. They can have bone deformities or be stillborn.