How to Test For Syphilis
It is important to know how to test for syphilis if you think you may be at risk for this sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis, caused by bacteria spread from sexual contact with someone who has it, can affect the genital area, lips, mouth, and anus. Though the first sign of the disease is usually painless sores, left untreated syphilis can lead to serious complications and even death.
The good news is that once diagnosed, syphilis can be treated with a simple antibiotic. So how can you be tested for syphilis? Follow these steps:
- First, see your doctor if you think you may have syphilis. He or she will order a test.
- Though some doctors will test scrapings from the sore to detect presence of the bacteria that cause syphilis, a blood test is more common.
- A positive test indicates that you may have a current or past syphilis infection, and will need to be treated for the disease. However, false positives are common; having HIV, Lyme disease, malaria, or pneumonia may cause a false positive result. For this reason, your doctor may confirm a false positive test with a more specific test.
- Follow up with your doctor is critical, even if you receive a negative test result. The bacteria might not be able to be detected for up to three months after infection, so your doctor may recommend a retest in several months.
- If you are infected with syphilis, you should return to your doctor at three, six, twelve, and 24 months after treatment to make sure that the disease does not return.
It is important to be tested for syphilis anytime you have unprotected sexual contact. Though symptoms may seem minor, complications, including increased risk for HIV, can be very serious.