Late Syphilis: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. Rarely, syphilis can be spread by other means, such as in the blood by sharing needles to inject drugs. Pregnant women with syphilis can pass the infection to their babies.

If syphilis is not treated in an early stage, symptoms may go away but the infection is still in the body. This is called latent syphilis. Later, the disease can turn into what is called late (or tertiary) syphilis. Late syphilis can damage different parts of the body, including the heart, nerves, and eyes. It can cause death.

Treatment with antibiotics will kill the bacteria and may prevent further damage. You will need blood tests after treatment to make sure that the syphilis bacteria have been killed. You also may need treatment for problems caused by syphilis. During the first 24 hours of treatment, you may have a fever, a headache, and muscle aches.

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.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get your antibiotic shots or take your pills as directed. Do not stop them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Do not have sexual contact with anyone while you are being treated. Even if you use a condom, you and your partner may pass the infection back and forth.
  • Tell your sex partner or partners that you have syphilis. They should get treated, whether or not they have symptoms of infection.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new fever that lasts more than 48 hours after you start treatment.
  • You have new numbness or tingling.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have a headache, stiff neck, or any changes in your vision or hearing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • Your symptoms continue or come back after treatment, or new symptoms develop.

Where can you learn more?

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