What short-term effects does syphilis have?

In the first 3 months of syphilis infection, called the primary stage, you might get small sores or ulcers. These can appear around your genitals and anus, or inside your mouth, on your lips and on your hands. You might get swollen glands in your armpits, neck or groin. 

These symptoms will usually clear up within 8 weeks. But without treatment, the syphilis infection will stay in your body. Over time, it can cause serious and potentially life-threatening problems.

  • the secondary stage of syphilis, usually the first 6 months of infection, can cause skin problems and a rash.

  • in the latent phase, more than 2 years after infection, syphilis can cause problems with your heart or brain. Or it can affect your nervous system or bones, skin and other organs.

If you have any of these symptoms, visit your local sexual health clinic as soon as you can.

Treatment

Syphilis usually is treated with an antibiotic injection. How long you need treatment will depend on which stage of infection you are in.

After treatment, you’ll be retested for syphilis to make sure the infection has gone. This is known as a test of cure.

Testing for syphilis

If you have any syphilis symptoms, we recommend you go to your nearest sexual health clinic. 

You can get tested with our at-home blood sample tests. You should take this test 12 weeks after you might’ve been exposed to the infection.

Use our kit to take a blood sample from your finger and send it back to our lab. You’ll get your results quickly and discreetly.


Reviewed by Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director
Last updated at: 17 October 2022