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Testing for Syphilis

In order to make a syphilis diagnosis, your healthcare provider will likely ask a number of questions about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and recommend certain tests. As part of the diagnostic process, your healthcare provider will also rule out other causes of possible syphilis symptoms.
 
Testing can involve:
 
  • Identifying the bacteria in a sample taken from a lesion (sore) and placed on a microscope slide (dark-field microscope)
  • Blood test for the disease.
     

How Is It Treated?

Treatment options will depend on:
 
  • The stage (see Stages of Syphilis)
  • What symptoms are present
  • The person's age and general health
  • Any allergies that the person has.
     
Penicillin is the preferred drug used to treat the disease at all stages. If a person is allergic to penicillin, he or she may be given another antibiotic. A person is more likely to need repeat treatment if he or she gets an antibiotic other than penicillin.
 
While you are receiving treatment for syphilis, you should:
 
  • Avoid any sexual activity during this time. Sexual contact should be avoided until the sores are completely healed.
     
  • Tell your sexual partners so that they can be tested and treated, if necessary.
     
After you have completed treatment for syphilis, get retested after 6 months and 12 months. Some healthcare providers recommend more frequent followup tests.
 
Damage already done to body organs cannot be reversed. Also, having syphilis once does not protect a person from getting it again.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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