Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years. In the primary stage, syphilis may cause one or more painless sores to appear at the spot where syphilis entered the body. In the secondary stage, an itchless rash may appear on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet.
Any sexually active person can get syphilis. It is more common among men who have sex with men.
An accurate, safe, and inexpensive blood test by a health care provider can tell you whether or not you have syphilis. Some providers may also be able to tell by examining a sample from an infectious sore (chancre) using a special microscope.
Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. The surest way to prevent syphilis is not to have sex, to have sex only with someone who’s not infected and who has sex only with you, or to use condoms the right way every single time you have sex.
Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single intramuscular injection of penicillin, an antibiotic, will cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year. If not treated, syphilis infection can go into the latent (hidden) stage. The disease may damage internal organs and can even cause death. All recent sex partners should be tested and treated.