What Is It?
Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum that infects the vulva, urethra, or cervix in women. It is not as common as in the past but there have been outbreaks in Dublin in 2001.
How Is It Passed On?
It is passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, by sharing sex toys, direct skin to skin contact with someone who has syphilis sores or rashes, or from a mother to her unborn child.
What Are The Symptoms?
Symptoms are painless sore, usually on or near the vagina or penis but sometimes in the mouth or anus. This is followed by a rash on the body and flu-like symptoms, such as swollen gland, tiredness, headache and sore throat.
How Is It Treated?
A visit to a GUM clinic. Usually a swab is taken from one of the sores. A sample of urine and blood will also be taken. It is easily treated with antibiotics. To avoid re-infection sexual partners should also be treated. Pregnant women can be treated safely with no risk to the unborn baby. Left untreated it can cause heart problems and dementia. If contracted in pregnancy it can cause stillbirth and congenital infection.
Remember treatment in a STI clinic is confidential, non-judgmental and free. Staff in the clinic are trained to treat STIs in an understanding and helpful way so there is no need for you to feel embarrassed.