What Is Syphilis?
Syphilis is a curable sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum.

How Do You Get Syphilis?
Syphilis is transmitted through contact with a syphilis sore; this is usually through oral, vaginal and/or anal sex. Syphilis can also be spread during childbirth.

What Are the Symptoms of Syphilis?
There are four stages of syphilis.

  • Primary: During this stage, a painless sore – or multiple sores -- will appear at the site of infection. These are called chancres, and they usually appear 10 to 90 days after infection. Chancres can last 10 weeks and heal without treatment before moving into the secondary stage of syphilis. Depending how a person was infected, you might not be able to see the chancre because it may be inside the vagina or rectum. This is one reason why regular testing for syphilis is important.
  • Secondary: During this stage, a rash will appear on the body. This rash usually appears on the back, palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet. The rash will go away, but without the right treatment, the infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis.
  • Latent: During this stage, there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. This stage can last for several years.
  • Tertiary: During this stage, many different organ systems can be damaged. Most people with untreated syphilis do not develop tertiary syphilis, though it is very serious and would occur 10-30 years after the infection began.

Our 24/7 Advice Nurse is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss heath concerns and the need for medical care. They can be reached at 530-752-2349.

How Do You Test for Syphilis?
Syphilis is tested through blood.

  • Check out GYT UC Davis for information about getting yourself tested on and off campus.
  • If you are covered under another person’s health plan in California and are concerned about confidentiality, then you can check out My Health, My Info for assistance with submitting a Confidential Communication Request to your insurance provider.

How Do You Prevent Syphilis?
You can reduce your risk of syphilis by using barriers – such as internal condoms, external condoms, dental dams and/or capes – during sexual activity. The only 100% guaranteed way to not get syphilis is to not engage in sexual activity.

  • Registered UC Davis students can visit the Love Lab for free safer sex products.
  • Check out the UC Davis Sexcess Map to find safer sex products on and off campus.

What If You’re Diagnosed with Syphilis?
The first thing you should know is that you are normal and that sexually transmitted infections are very common. You are still awesome!

Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. To stay healthy, it is very important that you follow your treatment plan. It is also important to tell your partner(s) so that they can get themselves tested and treated, too.

Make sure to get yourself tested again after 3 months to check for re-infection, and that you are tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, too.