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Syphilis is a rare sexually transmitted disease. It is passed on by both sexual intercourse and oral sex. If you have sex with an infected person, the risk of you getting syphilis are between 30 and 50 per cent. In some countries syphilis is most common between men who have sex with men, but it is also passed on between women and men. The disease is caused by a bacteria which leads to sores in the area of infection, usually on the genitals or in the mouth. After a few weeks the sores disappear, but later on the disease can spread to the whole body. Symptoms are wart-like spots on the skin, loss of hair, tiredness and fever. If untreated, syphilis can lead to brain damage, heart disease, skeletal problems and blindness. Doctors can find out if you have syphilis by examining the sores and taking blood tests. Syphilis is treated with antibiotics such as penicillin. Using a condom gives some protection, but only protects the area covered by the condom. The only sure way to avoid being infected is never to have sex with someone who might have syphilis.

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