Syphilis | Overview


What is syphilis?

Syphilis (say: siff-uh-liss) is a serious infection passed from one person to another through sexual contact. It is caused by a bacteria (germ). You can get syphilis by touching the blood or sores of a person who has syphilis, especially sores on the person's mouth, penis, vagina or anus (the opening to the rectum).

Should I tell my sex partner I have syphilis?

Yes, you should tell your partner that you have syphilis. Then your partner can find out if he or she also has syphilis. If you're not comfortable telling your sex partner, your doctor can help you. In some places, the local health department can tell sex partners that they may have syphilis and should get a test. If you wish, your name can be kept secret.


Resolving the Common Clinical Dilemmas of Syphilis by NR Birnbaum, M.D., RH Goldschmidt, M.D., and WO Buffett, M.D. (American Family Physician April 15, 1999,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 04/99