Syphilis: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria. It's usually spread through sex. It is one of several types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The first symptom is usually a painless, red sore on the genitals, rectal area, or mouth. This type of sore is called a chancre (say "SHANK-er"). Later, you may get other symptoms. These include a rash, a fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Your hair may start to fall out. Or you may feel like you have the 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 complications. Both you and your sex partner or partners need antibiotic treatment. This is to prevent you from passing the infection back and forth or to other sex partners.

During the first 24 hours of treatment, you may have a fever, a headache, and muscle aches.

After treatment, you will get blood tests to make sure you don't have any more bacteria in your body. You may also want to be tested for other STIs.

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?

  • Your doctor probably gave you a shot of antibiotics. If you've had syphilis for a while, you may need 2 more shots. It's very important to get all the recommended shots.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotic pills, take them as directed. Do not stop taking 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. After treatment, wait at least 7 days and until all of your sores are healed before you have any sexual contact. Even if you use a condom, you and your partner may pass the infection back and forth.
  • Wash your hands if you touch an infected area. This will help prevent spreading the infection to other parts of your body or to other people.
  • Tell your sex partner or partners that you have syphilis. They should get treatment even if they don't have symptoms.

To prevent syphilis in the future

  • Use latex condoms every time you have sex. Use them from the start to the end of sexual contact.
  • Talk to your partner before you have sex. Find out if he or she has or is at risk for syphilis or any other STI. Remember that a person without symptoms may still be able to spread an STI.
  • Do not have sex or any type of sexual contact if you are being treated for syphilis or any other STI.
  • Do not have sex with anyone who has symptoms of an STI. These include sores on the genitals or mouth.
  • Having one sex partner (who does not have STIs and does not have sex with anyone else) is a good way to avoid STIs.

When should you call for help?

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.
  • You develop new symptoms, such as a fever.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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