Syphilis Home > Prevent Syphilis

Using Condoms
Genital ulcer diseases, like syphilis, can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex male condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of syphilis, as well as genital herpes and chancroid, only when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected.
For anal sex, use a latex male condom. For oral sex, use a dental dam. A dental dam is a rubbery material that can be placed over the anus or the vagina before sexual contact.
Condoms lubricated with spermicides (especially Nonoxynol-9 or N-9) are no more effective than other lubricated condoms in protecting against the transmission of STDs. Based on findings from several research studies, N-9 may itself cause genital lesions, providing a point of entry for HIV and other STDs. In June 2001, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that N-9 not be used as a microbicide or lubricant during anal intercourse.
The transmission of STDs, including syphilis, cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and/or douching after sex. Any unusual discharge, sore, or rash, particularly in the groin area, should be a signal to refrain from having sex and to see a doctor immediately.
Understanding Birth Control
Know that some methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms, will not protect you from STDs. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a latex condom or dental dam (for oral sex) correctly every time you have sex.
Open Communication
It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken if necessary. Talk with your sex partner(s) about using condoms. It's up to you to make sure you are protected.
Talk frankly with your doctor or nurse, as well as your sex partner(s), about any STDs you or your partner has or had. Talk about any sores in the genital area. Try not to be embarrassed; being honest could save your lives.
Pelvic Exams
If you are a female, it's important to have regular pelvic exams. Talk with your doctor about how often you need them. Many tests for STDs can be done during this exam. Ask your doctor to test you for syphilis and other STDs. The sooner a disease is found, the easier it generally is to treat.
If you are pregnant, get tested for syphilis. Also, get tested as soon as you think you may be pregnant (see Syphilis in Pregnant Women).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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