• Sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria

Signs and Symptoms

  • It occurs in three stages and takes 10 days to 3 months for symptoms to show up.
  • Stage 1 – painless open sore(s) usually around the genitals, rectum and/or mouth appear about 3 weeks after exposure
  • Stage 2 – occurs 4 to 10 weeks after the first stage; flu-like symptoms may be present and a body rash may appear on the palms of the hands, bottom of the feet or entire body.
  • These 2 stages are highly contagious and can go unnoticed; this may last up to 1 year. Even without treatment, symptoms may go away but the infection is still there.
  • Stage 3 – may occur up to 3 years after stage 1 and may cause heart disease, brain damage or death.


  • It is spread from one person to another by vaginal, oral or anal sex. It can also be spread from mother to child.


  • Syphilis is treated with penicillin shots. For people who are allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics are available.
  • Even though a patient is treated, their blood tests will show infection for life. Keep a record of your treatment so that you can show it to any of your new doctors or other health professionals.
  • Your doctor will do a blood test yearly to make sure your treatment did work.
  • You may have sex again when you and your partner(s) have finished treatment and the doctor says you can no longer give the infection to others.


  • Use a condom, even if you are using other birth control methods to prevent pregnancy.

Syphilis is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

This information is for general knowledge only and does not replace professional medical advice. For STI testing or more information, contact our confidential sexual health clinic at 519-753-4937 ext. 471.