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For Teens: Understanding Syphilis

Syphilis spreads through any kind of sexual contact. This STD has three stages, and gets worse with each stage. Syphilis can be cured. But early treatment is important. Left alone, it can cause lasting damage, like blindness. Syphilis can even cause death.

What to Look For

First-stage symptoms usually show up within a few weeks of catching syphilis. It may take months for second-stage symptoms to appear.

During the first stage you may have:

  • A painless sore in or on the mouth, genitals, or anus. The sore often goes away on its own within a few weeks.

During the second stage you may have:  

  • A body rash that includes the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever, sore throat, and headache.

Treatment

Syphilis can be cured with medication. Usually, a single shot is all that’s needed. In later stages, treatment may also be needed for damage that syphilis causes in the body. Make sure your partner gets checked. And don’t have sex until your doctor says it’s okay.

 If You Don’t Get Treated

Syphilis can stay in the body for years. During the third stage, syphilis can make you very sick and cause:

  • Damage to the brain, nerves, and heart. Some damage can’t be reversed, even with treatment.

  • Blindness and death.

 

Talk to your partner about STDs. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have an STD, or if they’ve been tested. Think about getting tested if either of you isn’t sure.

 

 

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