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Ask Dr. K

I was involved with an older man, and we had several three-ways. One of his other partners, with whom we had a three way, told him he had tested positive for syphilis. This person was strictly a top, and he fucked me without a condom. What are some telltale signs that I may have been infected? I haven't been tested yet.

It is great that your partner's friend told him that he had syphilis. Otherwise you may have never known you need to get treated.

Symptoms of syphilis usually show up 2-12 weeks after sex with someone with syphilis. The first sign is often a skin sore called a chancre (shank-er). You may have more than one, or you may have chancres and not notice them because they are inside your anus or vagina. Chancres can also appear on your scrotum, penis, vaginal lips, anus or in or on your mouth. They usually do not hurt. The chancre will go away after several weeks without treatment, but you still have syphilis.

Most people who have secondary syphilis notice a skin rash covering their body 4 to 12 weeks after infection. A key part of this rash is that it shows up on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Often it is not itchy. Other common symptoms of secondary syphilis are swollen glands in various areas of the body, fever, feeling tired, patchy hair loss, weight loss, and headache. Since these symptoms are so similar to those of many other health problems, syphilis has sometimes been called "the great imitator."

Please go get treated. Anyone who has had sex with someone with syphilis needs to be treated urgently. If you get treated before you have symptoms, you can prevent infection. In addition, if you are sexually active with more than one partner, it's a good idea to get regular STD check-ups every three months.

For more information about syphilis, click here.

If you feel you may have exposed others to syphilis, return the favor, and notify your partners. If you have his or her email address, try sending an e-card using

To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Monday, September 13, 2010.
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