Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum and is a serious sexually transmitted infection that can lead to damage of the nervous system and other tissues. The first part of determining whether someone has syphilis is a physical examination. There are certain classic features of syphilis including rashes, sores, and other symptoms that frequently progress in stages. However, one of the most common presentations are a sore or sores with swollen lymph nodes in the genital area with an extensive rash. Unfortunately, syphilis can present with any number of signs and symptoms, and it is frequently not possible to tell whether someone has syphilis simply by examining him or her. If you have ever had one sexually transmitted infection (STIs) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia you are at an increased risk for other types STIs.
The two most common tests for syphilis are designed to detect antibodies made by the immune system to syphilis. These antibodies can detect infection at any stage of the disease, but the only way to check for these antibodies is by a blood draw. However, if you have still have a sore your doctor
can take scrapings from the sore and exam them under a microscope to look for the bacteria. Unfortunately, this requires a very special type of microscope that is not found in most doctors' offices. Fortunately, the blood tests are very good at determining whether someone has syphilis and the treatment for syphilis is fairly easy to take, usually just one shot. Your primary care physician
or an infectious disease specialist
can help evaluate your symptoms and determine the best test and treatment options for you.