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Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria. It's usually spread through sex. It's a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).
The first symptom is usually a painless, red sore on the genitals, rectal area, or mouth. This is called a chancre (say "SHANK-er"). Later symptoms include a rash, a fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Your hair may start to fall out. Or you may feel like you have influenza (flu).
Sometimes these symptoms go away on their own. But this doesn't mean that the infection is gone. If you don't treat syphilis with antibiotics, the infection can spread in your body. You can also spread it to others.
Antibiotics can cure syphilis and prevent more serious problems caused by it. You and your sex partner or partners need antibiotic treatment. This is to prevent passing the infection back and forth or to others.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
It's easier to prevent an STI than it is to treat one:
Vaccines are available for some STIs, such as HPV. Ask your doctor for more information.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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