Risks and Severity

The use of a condom is essential to protect yourself and your partners against STDs. If you have any concerns, you should have an STD screening test. In the event of an infection, follow the treatment correctly and inform your sexual partners.

What are the complications of syphilis?

Without treatment, ⅓ of people affected by syphilis develop tertiary syphilis, a very severe infection that can cause severe complications:

  • cardiac complications
  • neurological complications (cerebrovascular accident, loss of coordination, loss of feeling, paralysis, loss of sight, deafness (hearing loss).

Tertiary syphilis has a dramatic impact on health and leads to a very high fatality rate.

DID YOU KNOW? The co-infections most frequently observed with HIV are syphilis and gonorrhea.  


A pregnant woman can transmit syphilis to her baby, during the pregnancy or via the placenta.

The infection, that is called congenital syphilis, is associated with severe risks:

  • miscarriage
  • still birth
  • congenital malformations.

Infants born with syphilis can be asymptomatic at the time of birth but, without immediate treatment, they can also develop severe complications:

  • epileptic seizures
  • irreversible lesions of the central nervous system
  • multiple organic lesions
  • inflammation of the cornea (keratitis)
  • arthritis
  • deafness (hearing loss).

Pregnant women must undergo screening for syphilis and infected women must be given antibiotic treatment.

The treatment for syphilis during pregnancy prevents transmission from mother to child.

Sciensano compiles two reports each year documenting the evolution of STDs in Belgium. The reports are based on data-collection networks.


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