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Syphilis, Ambulatory Care


is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. Syphilis is spread through direct contact with the sores of an infected person. This usually happens through sexual activity, especially unprotected sex. It can also spread through sharing needles or contact with the blood of an infected person. Syphilis can be passed to a baby during pregnancy.

Common early symptoms include the following:

  • Small sore called a chancre sore where your skin came into contact with the bacteria
  • Red, bumpy, scaly rash on your torso, arms, and legs that may spread to your palms and soles
  • Mouth sores along with pain, swelling, a sore throat, or red, open sores at the corners of your mouth
  • Skin sores that produce large, raised white or gray open wounds in warm, moist areas of your body
  • Fever, headache, or swollen glands in your neck

Common symptoms that appear 3 to 15 years after infection include the following:

  • Lesions that most commonly affect the skin or bones
  • Upper respiratory lesions that may lead to a hole or tear in your nose or the roof of your mouth
  • A stiff neck, fever, and headache that may occur with nausea or vomiting
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, swollen ankles, and severe tiredness
  • Hearing loss, facial numbness, or vision problems
  • Trouble with balance, personality changes, or confusion

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Fever, headache, and a stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain and pain in your arm, jaw, or back
  • Shortness of breath

Treatment for syphilis

may include any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help treat the bacteria that caused your syphilis.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

Prevent syphilis infection:

  • Tell your sexual partners about your syphilis. Tell everyone you have had sex with in the past 3 months. They need to be checked for infection and may need treatment.
  • Do not have sex until treatment is complete. This usually takes at least 2 months. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can resume sexual activity.
  • Use protection. After your treatment is complete, use condoms and follow safe sex practices. This will help prevent the spread of syphilis and other STIs.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.