U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Testing for Syphilis: Questions for the doctor

Testing for Syphilis: Questions for the doctor

Syphilis ("SIF-uh-lis") is a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, that you can get during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If a pregnant woman has syphilis, her baby may get it from her before or during birth.

Get tested for syphilis if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Have sex for drugs or money

Ask your doctor whether you need to get tested for syphilis if:

  • You have HIV or another STD
  • You've had sex with someone who tested positive for syphilis

Some people who get syphilis have symptoms soon after they get it. But many people who have syphilis don't have any signs or symptoms at all. The only way to know if you have syphilis is to get tested.

If it's not treated, syphilis can lead to serious health problems and even death. Medicine can cure syphilis, but it can't undo any damage that syphilis has already caused. That's why it's important to get tested regularly if you are at risk.

What if I've had syphilis before?

Being treated for syphilis once doesn't protect you from getting it again. It's possible to get syphilis again after you've been cured – so ask your doctor if you need to be tested.

What about cost?

Thanks to the health care reform law, insurance plans must cover syphilis testing for adults at higher risk and all pregnant women. You may be able to get tested at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

What do I ask the doctor?

Visiting the doctor can be stressful. It helps to have questions for the doctor or nurse written down ahead of time. Print this list of questions and take it to your appointment.

  • What puts me at risk for syphilis?
  • Do I need to get tested for syphilis?
  • How often do you recommend I get tested for syphilis?
  • How is the test done?
  • How will I find out my test results?
  • When will I get my test results?
  • If I have syphilis, what will happen next?
  • Can you give me some information about syphilis to take home with me?

For more information about syphilis, visit: