Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is spread by skin-to-skin contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal or oral sex or by kissing an open syphilis sore. If left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious health problems, such as blindness, paralysis and dementia. To avoid the many damaging effects of the disease, it is important to know what syphilis is and its stages of infection. As such, having an awareness of the symptoms will help you know if you need to seek medical attention.

Pregnant women with long standing syphilis are at a high risk of having a stillborn child (a baby born dead) or of giving birth to a baby who dies shortly after birth. An infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms of syphilis. However, if not treated immediately, the baby may develop serious problems within a few weeks.

The surest way to avoid contracting syphilis is to exercise abstinence or engage in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner that has tested negative for STDs.


Though many do not have symptoms of syphilis, some men AND women experience the disease stages below.

Primary Stage

  • Painless sore, called a chancre, on the genital area, mouth or lip

A chancre is small, round sore that forms at the spot where syphilis entered the body. The chancre lasts approximately 4 weeks and heals without treatment. However, if adequate treatment is not administered, the infection progresses to the secondary stage. The primary stage of syphilis poses the lowest risk to your health given the way it manifests, but it is for this reason that you should seek STD testing you believe you have contracted any kind of disease, as all STDs, syphilis included, are best treated in their earliest stages.

Secondary Stage

  • Rash on the hands, feet and other parts of the body
  • Fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headaches and fatigue

The signs and symptoms of secondary stage syphilis will resolve without treatment, but without treatment, syphilis will progress to the latent and late stages of disease. Much like the first stage of syphilis, the second stage seems to pose relatively low risk to your overall health, but this is only because it will seemingly resolve itself regardless of whether you seek treatment or not – do not assume that because any unusual symptoms going away means you “gotten over” an illness, as STDs do not “disappear” with their symptoms.

Late Stage

  • Blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Dementia

Ignoring the symptoms for syphilis symptoms or any other STD, in women or men, may lead to far worse consequences. It is necessary to be tested at the initial manifestation of symptoms for syphilis so that you can obtain the syphilis cure as soon as possible. The third stage of syphilis poses significant hazards to your health but fortunately takes three to fifteen years to properly set in – this, however, does not give you license to ignore any warning signs of syphilis (or any STD.) Treatment in late stage syphilis (when the damage has already been done to your body) is focused around prevention of further damage, but will not undo the detrimental effects syphilis has already had. Treatment is difficult and lengthy.


Syphilis testing is carried out via a blood test or a microscope test, which consists of examining the infected area for the bacteria that cause syphilis. At CAPS, the syphilis blood test is simple, quick, and private to ensure your comfort and peace of mind. The test is undertaken by health professionals to assure the highest level of accuracy possible.

If you think you might have syphilis, you should get tested.

Syphilis can affect anybody, but fortunately there is a cure for syphilis. If detected early (within a year), syphilis can be treated with a single injection of antibiotics. If you test positive we will refer you to a low-cost clinic for treatment, though to treat longer standing cases of the disease, multiple doses of antibiotics are required.

CDC Syphilis Information:


To get STI / STD testing help, contact us at any of the San Diego area clinic locations, call us at 619-337-8080, or schedule an appointment.

We provide low to no cost STI / STD testing. No one is turned away due to inability to pay.

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