Syphilis is a bacterial infection which is sexually transmitted.  It is highly infectious.  It can be transmitted through oral, anal and vaginal sex.


If you have syphilis you may not have any symptoms.  This is called latent infection.

Some people will develop an ulcer at the site of infection.  This can occur in the first 3 months of infection.  It is usually painless and heals on it’s own.  Sometimes it is very small and you may not notice it.  This is called primary syphilis.

Some people will develop a flu-like illness, rash and swollen glands.  This is called secondary syphilis.  It usually occurs in the first 6 months of infection.

If syphilis is left untreated it can affect the heart, bones and central nervous system.


If you have an ulcer which could be primary syphilis the doctor or nurse can take a swab to confirm this.

Otherwise, the test for syphilis is a blood test. 

This can be done in clinic or you can order an online test kit SH:24 for free. 

Syphilis may take 12 weeks from the time of infection to show up on a blood test.

If you have previously been treated for syphilis, some tests for syphilis may remain positive.  There are additional tests we can do to see if this is the old infection or a new infection.

 If you have symptoms or are worried, you can: 


Syphilis is treated with antibiotics.


You can prevent syphilis and other STIs by:

  • using condoms.  You can request free condoms at our clinics.
  • testing each time you change your sexual partner can help reduce the transmission of STIs.

More information

Visit NHS Choices - Syphilis

sts_pil_non-pregnant_print_2016.pdf (