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The lowdown on syphilis


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which is on the increase in the UK. We talk through some of the basics when it comes to this STI so you’re clued up on symptoms, testing, treatment and more!


How common is it?

Rates of syphilis diagnoses are really on the rise. There were 7,137 diagnoses of syphilis in 2017, a 20% increase when compared to 2016 and a 148% increase relative to 2008. Syphilis is more common amongst men who have sex with men and this group made up 78% of all syphilis diagnoses in 2017.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms aren’t always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you’ll usually remain infected unless you get treated.

Early signs are usually a small, painless sore around genital/anal area and sometimes swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits. Later signs can include a blotchy red rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, white patches in the mouth, patchy hair loss and growths in the genital/anal region. You might also have a fever, headache, swollen glands and notice weight loss.

What does the test involve?

The test is usually just a simple blood test and taking a sample of fluid from any sores using a swab (like a small round cotton bud).

You can get tested at your nearest sexual health clinic.

How is it treated?

Syphilis is usually treated with either a quick injection into your bum cheek (most people will only need one dose) or a course of antibiotics tablets if you can’t have the injection – this will usually last 2-4 weeks.

How do I protect myself against it?

The best way to protect yourself is by using condoms, they're the only method of contraception which helps to protect against STIs. Avoid touching any sores or rashes as syphilis can be spread by making close contact with sores/rashes. If you’re sharing sex toys you should use condoms when possible and wash well between each partner to prevent STIs. It's worth mentioning that PrEP doesn't protect against syphilis.

What happens if I don’t get treatment?

If it’s left untreated for years, syphilis can spread to the brain or other parts of the body and cause serious, long-term problems.

Clinic Address

Cobridge Community Health Centre Entrance H, Building B Church Terrace Cobridge Stoke-on-Trent ST6 2JN

Opening Times (walk-in)

Monday: 8.30am to 6.00pm Tuesday: 8.30am to 6.00pm Wednesday: 8.30am to 2.30pm Thursday: 8.30am to 6.00pm Friday: 8.30am to 1.00pm Saturday: 9.30am to 2.00pm

Phone number 0300 7900 165

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LGBT Stoke is a service provided by the Sexual Health Prevention Team from Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust