Syphilis (Lues)

Syphilis (lues) is a serious STI that is quite common among gay and bisexual men. The course of a syphilis infection comprises a number of phases. If you don't get treated with penicillin in time, syphilis can have very serious consequences.

Symptoms of syphilis

Depending on the phase of the infection, syphilis can cause different symptoms. There are three different phases.

First phase of syphilis

The first phase of syphilis begins with a small blister on the place of infection. That could be your penis, your anus or your mouth. The blister usually appears within few weeks to a month, but sometimes only after three months. The blister is painless and feels hard to the touch. If it is in your anus or mouth, you often won't be able to see it, so you may not even notice the infection. The blister will disappear on its own, but the infection will continue to develop in your body.

Second and third phases of syphilis

After two to six months, the second phase begins. You could get a fever, a sore throat, headaches and muscle pain. You could have a rash over your whole body, with tiny red spots or bumps These symptoms will disappear again, but in this case, too, the disease will not be gone. 

After many years in which you won't have noticed anything, syphilis could ultimately lead to serious damage to your brain, to the bone marrow in your spinal cord, to your heart and to your central nervous system. That is also known as the third phase or "neurosyphilis".

Treatment of syphilis

As long as you don't wait too long to get treated, the treatment of syphilis consists of a single injection with penicillin. If you are not sure when you got syphilis or if you got it over a year earlier, the treatment will last three weeks and consist of multiple injections. After the final injection, you will have another blood test to make sure that the treatment was successful.
After having been treated, you will not be immune to syphilis: in other words, you could still get syphilis again.

Transmission of syphilis

Syphilis is mainly transmitted through fucking without condoms, but also through blow jobs. Unfortunately, condoms do not offer complete protection against syphilis. That is because a syphilis blister could be located outside of the area covered by the condom and transmit the disease in that way.

Testing for syphilis 

The test is a blood test. The test results will be available within a week. As syphilis can have very serious consequences, it is advisable to get yourself tested for this STI twice a year, especially if you have many casual sexual partners. If it is treated in time, syphilis is easy to cure.

If you already have symptoms that could point to syphilis, get tested as soon as possible. If it turns out that you do have syphilis, notify your sex partners so they can also get tested and receive treatment. The GGD can help you do that.


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