Anyone who suspects they have syphilis should not engage in any sexual activity - including oral sex, sharing sex toys and even close, non-penetrative bodily contact. Even when treatment starts you are still contagious so you should abstain for two weeks after treatment has ended. This will prevent syphilis from being spread to others.
If you do test positive for syphilis, it is vital to contact any previous sexual partners as they may be at risk and be spreading the infection to others.
Syphilis is treated with antibiotics but the amount you take depends on how long you've had it.
- If syphilis has been present for less than two years, you will be given a penicillin injection in the buttocks or a 10-14-day course of oral antibiotics (especially if you are allergic to penicillin).
- If syphilis has been present for longer than two years, three injections of antibiotics are given in weekly intervals or you have a 28-day course of oral antibiotics.
- In very serious cases, where syphilis has spread to the brain, you may need daily injections in the buttocks or vein for two weeks or a 28-day course of oral antibiotics.
Almost half of all people treated for syphilis experience side effects, which include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches and joint pain. If these aren't eased by paracetamol, speak to your GP. Some people can react to the penicillin injection but you will be monitored and treated if that occurs. Tell your doctor if you think you may be pregnant as this may affect your treatment.
Syphilis is contagious so even if you are in a long-term relationship, consider getting tested every year. If you have multiple partners, get tested every three months or each time you change partner.
Last updated June 1, 2018