STD Information: Syphilis


Syphilis is an STD caused by a spirochete that is usually detected with a blood test.  Some of its most devastating effects occur when it is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

  • Transmission WTW: unknown, but theoretically possible. Contact with the sores or rash of an infected person during sex is the main mode of transmission.
  • Symptoms: 10-90 days after sex a painless single sore appears in the area where contact was made. The sore "chancre" usually feels hard at the edges. It does not hurt. It can look like herpes, warts, scabies or hemorrhoids. The sore is very contagious. After 2-6 weeks the chancre goes away. If untreated, 6-8 weeks later, the second stage begins in about 30% of persons. Symptoms can last from 2 weeks to 6 months and include swollen lymph nodes, rashes, or a flu-like feeling. There may be different genital sores that look like flat grayish warts. Like other syphilis sores, these are highly infectious and can spread the disease. Symptoms start to go away in 2 weeks. Infection untreated beyond this point can eventually cause serious damage to the heart, nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and brain. 
  • Treatment: Penicillin injection, routine treatment of sex partners.

Please note that for the purpose of our web site we are focusing primarily on woman to woman transmission (WTW) and only providing a general overview of the infections themselves. You may want to check out our Bibliography and Links sections for more in depth information or contact us with specific questions through STD Q&A's.