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Syphilis

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Diagnosis

It can be very difficult for your healthcare provider to diagnose syphilis based on symptoms. This is because symptoms and signs of the disease might be absent, go away without treatment, or be confused with those of other diseases. Because syphilis can be hard to diagnose, you should

  • Visit your healthcare provider if you have a lesion (sore) in your genital area or a widespread rash
  • Get tested periodically for syphilis if your sexual behaviors put you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Get tested for syphilis if you have been treated for another STD such as gonorrhea or HIV infection

Laboratory Tests

Your healthcare provider can diagnose early syphilis by seeing a chancre or rash and then confirming the diagnosis with laboratory tests. Because latent syphilis has no symptoms, it is diagnosed only by laboratory tests.

There are two methods for diagnosing syphilis through a laboratory.

  • Identifying the bacteria under a microscope in a sample of tissue (a group of cells) taken from a chancre
  • Performing a blood test for syphilis

If your healthcare provider thinks you might have neurosyphilis, your spinal fluid will be tested as well.

Last Updated October 24, 2014