If left untreated, syphilis can damage almost any part of the body.
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Australia's Intelligent STI Check - Fast, Convenient and Discreet


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection (STI) that can be easily treated if detected early. Symptoms may not always be present, so regular sexual health check-ups are recommended for individuals at risk.

If Left Undiagnosed?

In the event that it is not diagnosed and treated, syphilis can damage almost any part of the body, including the heart, brain, spinal cord, eyes and bones. This damage can happen years or even decades after the initial infection, and can result in mental illness, blindness, deafness, neurological problems, heart failure and death.

Although rare in Australia, Syphilis can also cause heart defects and even death in an unborn baby.

How is it Spread?

Syphilis is transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact with an infected area. You can catch syphilis by having oral, vaginal or anal sex with a person who is in the first two stages of the infection. It is highly contagious when the sore or rash is present.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of syphilis often go unnoticed. There are four stages of syphilis: primary, secondary, latent and tertiary. Having symptoms of syphilis can also make you more at risk of contracting the HIV infection during sexual contact.

Each stage has its own set of symptoms:

1st Stage (4 To 12 Weeks)

The appearance of a single sore marks the first (primary) stage of syphilis symptoms, although there may be multiple sores. The sore appears at the location where syphilis entered the body - usually around the mouth, vagina, cervix, penis or anus.

The sore is usually firm, round, and painless, however because the sore is painless, it can easily go unnoticed.

The sore lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not a person is treated. However, if the infected person does not receive adequate treatment the infection progresses to the secondary stage.

2nd Stage (0 To 24 Months)

Symptoms in the secondary stage of syphilis may also easily go unnoticed.

Rashes associated with secondary syphilis can appear from the time when the primary sore is healing to several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash usually does not cause itching, and may appear as rough, red, or reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and/or the bottoms of the feet. This rash may look different on other parts of the body and can look like rashes caused by other diseases.

Large, raised, grey or white lesions may develop in warm, moist areas such as the mouth, underarm or groin region. Sometimes rashes associated with secondary syphilis are so faint that they are not noticed. Other symptoms of secondary syphilis include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. The symptoms of secondary syphilis will go away with or without treatment. Without appropriate treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly late stages of disease.

3rd Stage (May Occur Years Later)

The third stage of syphilis can affect various organs, especially the brain and the heart. This stage occurs in about one-third of untreated people. Severe brain or heart complications may occur during this stage.

How is it Tested?

To conduct the Syphilis test, only a single blood sample is required.

The test for Syphilis is also an antibody detection test, which looks for evidence of antibodies which are produced in response to Treponema Pallidum - the bacterium that causes syphilis.


Syphilis is easily treated with penicillin injections or tablets - the length of treatment will depend on the stage of the infection. As with all medication, treatment will only be successful if administered correctly, so follow it's important to follow doctor’s instructions, read the label of any medication carefully, and always finish the full course of medicine.


If you have had Syphilis before, being cured doesn’t mean that you can’t get it again. For this reason sexual partners should be treated at the same time, so the untreated partner doesn’t reinfect the treated partner. Following treatment, it is recommended that both parties are tested again before commencing any new sexual relationship, as Syphilis is highly contagious and reinfection is common.

Statutory Notification

Syphilis is a notifiable disease which means that doctors and laboratories are legally required to notify state and federal health departments about new cases. This information is treated confidentially and the statistics used for public health planning.