At-Home Syphilis Testing
- Also Known As:
- At-Home Treponemal Test
- At-Home Syphilis Antibody Test
Test Quick Guide
Syphilis is an infection caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. This sexually transmitted disease (STD) is typically spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex when in contact with a person who has a syphilitic sore, also called a chancre. Syphilis infections can cause serious, long-term health complications if not diagnosed and treated effectively.
At-home syphilis testing requires sending a small sample of blood to a laboratory for analysis. This test can provide information about whether you’ve ever been infected with syphilis but cannot distinguish between a current or past syphilis infection. Testing for syphilis using an at-home testing kit should not be considered a substitute for syphilis testing conducted by a doctor.
About the Test
Purpose of the test
The purpose of syphilis testing is to detect an infection with Treponema pallidum. This test is typically ordered by a doctor and conducted in a medical setting, such as a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic.
At-home syphilis testing kits are available online. However, it is important to understand that diagnosing syphilis requires multiple tests, some of which are not available as an at-home version. Individuals interested in at-home syphilis testing should consult with a doctor about the goal of testing and whether it is appropriate for their situation.
The following sections offer information about the purposes of at-home and physician-ordered syphilis tests.
Purpose of an at-home syphilis test
The purpose of at-home syphilis testing is to detect antibodies in the blood that develop only after a person has contracted syphilis. Although there is limited information about the role of at-home syphilis testing, some experts suggest that at-home testing may be a useful method of testing certain populations for this infection.
Purpose of a physician-ordered syphilis test
The purpose of syphilis testing ordered by a doctor is to identify a current syphilis infection. Testing may be ordered for the purposes of screening, diagnosis, or monitoring.
Screening looks for a syphilis infection in people without symptoms or a known exposure to the Treponema pallidum bacteria. Doctors recommend screening for syphilis in people who are at high risk of contracting syphilis or passing the infection to others, including pregnant people, people diagnosed with HIV, and others whose sexual activity increases their likelihood of exposure.
Diagnostic testing is recommended for anyone with signs or symptoms of this infection and those who have had intimate contact with someone who has a syphilitic sore. Diagnosing syphilis usually requires an initial screening test and a second test to confirm the result.
Monitoring is important in patients who are being treated for syphilis. Doctors may order additional syphilis tests to ensure that the infection is responding to the prescribed treatment.
More information about physician-ordered syphilis testing can be found in our guide to syphilis testing.
What does the test measure?
At-home syphilis tests detect antibodies that are produced by the immune system after exposure to the bacteria that causes syphilis, Treponema pallidum. Two types of blood tests are used in diagnosing syphilis: treponemal tests and nontreponemal tests.
Treponemal antibody tests detect antibodies that have been generated due to infection from Treponema pallidum. It may take several weeks for these antibodies to develop after an infection. Treponemal antibodies remain in the body indefinitely after a person acquires syphilis. As a result, it is normal to still test positive for treponemal antibodies even after finishing treatment for syphilis. For this reason, treponemal antibody tests cannot distinguish between past and current infections. At-home syphilis tests are treponemal antibody tests.
Nontreponemal antibody tests are not available as at-home tests. These physician-ordered tests look for antibodies that are produced after the syphilis infection that are not specific to the presence of Treponema pallidum.
When should I get an at-home syphilis test?
You may consider taking an at-home syphilis test if you want to learn more about your sexual health. At-home syphilis tests cannot diagnose this STD within the first several weeks after exposure. Although a positive test indicates that you were infected with syphilis, it does not distinguish between a current infection or a past infection.
For most people, syphilis symptoms appear between 3 weeks and 3 months after the initial exposure to syphilis bacteria. If you believe you may have contracted syphilis, but you do not have symptoms, you should not take an at-home syphilis test. Instead, consult with your doctor for advice specific to your needs. Your doctor can also help you understand the benefits and downsides of at-home syphilis testing.
Benefits and Downsides of At-Home Syphilis Tests
It is important to consider the possible benefits and drawbacks of at-home syphilis testing to decide if an at-home test is right for you.
Some of the benefits of at-home syphilis testing include:
- Convenience: At-home syphilis testing allows you to take the test in privacy and at a convenient time for you without having to wait for an appointment with your doctor.
- Easy sample collection: At-home syphilis tests offer easy and fast sample collection, taking a blood sample by simply pricking a fingertip with a tiny needle.
- Clear pricing: Testing at home allows you to understand the full cost of the test from start to finish, so you don’t have to worry about unexpected medical bills.
- Combining with other tests: Some at-home kits allow you to test for syphilis at the same time as testing for other STDs, saving you time and money and providing important information about your sexual health.
Some of the potential downsides of at-home syphilis testing include:
- Not diagnostic: Although at-home treponemal antibody testing can detect evidence of exposure to syphilis, these tests cannot diagnose a current infection especially if there are no active symptoms. Abnormal results require additional physician-ordered tests.
- Consumer costs: When ordered by a doctor, syphilis testing may be paid for by a person’s health insurance, but health insurance plans usually don’t cover the cost of at-home testing.
Limited access to a doctor: For those who have limited access to a physician, at-home testing companies may offer to connect you with a doctor if your test results are abnormal. However, these consultations will be about the current STD and won’t include an in-depth review of your medical history or needs.
Types of At-Home Tests
There are several brands offering home testing kits. The following selections represent our top choices for at-home syphilis testing.
Everlywell – Syphilis Test
Tests for: Syphilis
Results timeline: Within 5 to 7 business days
Everlywell receives our nod for best overall at-home syphilis test due to its affordability and a user-friendly website that provides detailed information about the testing process.
After registering on the Everlywell website and selecting your test, your order will be approved by a board-certified physician. The test uses a blood sample to detect the antibody that is produced by your immune system in response to the bacteria that causes syphilis.
After cleaning your hands, use the provided lancet to prick your finger. Place a drop or two of your blood on the collection card and allow it to dry. Then put your sample inside the biohazard bag and back into the original box. Use the prepaid return label to ship your sample to one of Everlywell’s labs for analysis.
Test results are typically available within 5 to 7 business days after the lab receives your kit. After a physician reviews your results, you’ll be notified by email that your test report is ready. You can then read or download your report on Everlywell’s secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.
In the case of a positive syphilis test, a doctor in your state will reach out to you at no additional cost. Physicians can discuss your results, answer questions about your sexual health, and write prescriptions that can be filled at your chosen pharmacy.
Best Syphilis Panel
LetsGetChecked – Standard 5
Sample: Blood, Urine
Tests for: Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, Trichomoniasis
Results timeline: Within 2 to 5 days
The Standard 5 from LetsGetChecked is a comprehensive option for STD testing, and it’s our pick for best at-home syphilis panel. This discreet method of testing for sexually transmitted diseases is mailed in a plain envelope with no reference to the company or the contents of the package.
The test utilizes one sample of blood and one sample of urine to look for evidence of syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and trichomoniasis. Your test kit arrives with everything you need to collect your samples and return them to one of LetsGetChecked’s partner laboratories.
Once your sample reaches the lab, test results are usually available within 2 to 5 days. To get your results, log in to your secure LetsGetChecked account. If you have any questions about your test report, the company offers individual support with a member of its clinical team.
If your Standard 5 comes back positive for chlamydia or trichomoniasis, LetsGetChecked’s medical team can prescribe and send you medications free of charge in most states.
myLAB Box – At Home Syphilis Test
Tests for: Syphilis
Results timeline: Within 2 to 5 days
If you want to get tested quickly, consider the At Home Syphilis Test from myLAB Box, which includes free two-day shipping.
Collecting your fingerstick blood sample takes just five minutes, so you can send it back to the CLIA-certified laboratory on the same day. After the lab receives your sample, results are delivered via email within 2 to 5 days following HIPAA security protocols.
While an at-home syphilis test can offer preliminary results, keep in mind that your doctor may need to conduct additional testing to confirm a positive test result. If your At Home Syphilis Test results are positive, myLAB Box offers free phone consultations with physicians who can provide guidance and information about treatment options.
iDNA – Syphilis Test
Price: Starting at $78
Tests for: Syphilis (9 additional tests available)
Results timeline: Within 2 to 7 days
Based on your needs, iDNA lets you order an individual syphilis test or a predesigned package of tests consisting of ten different tests for sexually transmitted diseases: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis, Syphilis, Herpes 2, Hepatitis C, HIV I/II, HPV, Mycoplasma, and Ureaplasma. You can also customize a kit with your own mix of STD tests.
To choose your STD testing strategy, sign up on the iDNA website. Kits sold by iDNA use FDA-cleared test components, and its lab is CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited, demonstrating a commitment to accuracy and high-quality testing.
The iDNA syphilis test detects antibodies to Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that causes syphilis infections. The kit includes the supplies needed to collect a small sample of blood in just a few minutes. Be sure to register your kit online before packaging your sample and returning it to iDNA using the prepaid shipping materials.
Results of the syphilis test are usually available within 2 to 7 days. When your test report is ready, you’ll receive an email notifying you that it has been posted to your secure online account following HIPAA-compliant protocols.
If your syphilis test is positive, iDNA offers free retesting to confirm your result and only charges for shipping and handling. If you would like to discuss your test result with a doctor, the company offers the option of purchasing a physician consultation.
Interpreting At-Home Test Results
The results of an at-home syphilis test may be reported as nonreactive/negative or reactive/positive.
Nonreactive or negative test results mean that the test did not find antibodies to the bacteria that causes syphilis. Individuals with nonreactive treponemal test results may not have a syphilis infection unless testing was done too soon after the initial encounter. Patients with symptoms or a known recent exposure should talk with their doctor even if an at-home syphilis test is negative.
Reactive or positive test results suggest that a person has been infected with syphilis at some point. This test result does not always mean that a person has an active syphilis infection that requires treatment because people who have been treated for syphilis in the past may still test positive on treponemal tests for the rest of their lives.
Individuals should review all results of at-home syphilis testing with their doctor, regardless of whether results are positive or negative. Confirming a diagnosis or ruling out a syphilis infection almost always requires several different tests in addition to a review of an individual’s health and sexual history.
Are test results accurate?
Research regarding the accuracy of at-home syphilis testing suggests that at-home tests may be about as accurate as lab tests conducted on blood that has been collected by a medical professional.
The accuracy of syphilis testing can be affected by the amount of time between exposure to syphilis and whether the blood sample is collected properly. Treponemal tests may give negative test results for several weeks after an initial infection before the body produces sufficient antibodies or even symptoms.
People with questions or concerns about the accuracy of at-home syphilis testing should talk to their doctor and the at-home test provider. It may be helpful to ask at-home testing companies if they have any data on the accuracy of their testing method.
Do I need follow-up tests?
If you have a positive test result on an at-home treponemal syphilis test, you should talk to your doctor about the next step in diagnosing syphilis. Generally, doctors recommend a nontreponemal test to confirm the diagnosis.
Negative test results may also require follow-up testing in people with symptoms of syphilis or in those with a very recent exposure. These individuals should talk to their doctor about which testing strategy is appropriate for their situation.
Questions for your doctor after at-home testing
After learning about at-home syphilis test results, it’s important for people to ask their doctor for support in understanding test results and the need for future STD testing. Questions for the doctor may include:
- What does my at-home syphilis test result mean for my health?
- Are any additional tests needed to confirm my result?
- How often should I be tested for syphilis?
- Should I be tested for other STDs?
- Should my partner be tested?
Laboratory vs. at-home syphilis testing
Both at-home and laboratory-based syphilis testing use a sample of blood to look for evidence of a syphilis infection. While at-home testing allows people to collect a blood sample without leaving the house, physician-ordered testing requires one or more trips to the doctor.
A principal difference between these forms of syphilis testing is their ability to definitively diagnose syphilis. At-home testing offers treponemal testing, which can tell people if they’ve been exposed to syphilis in the past but not whether they currently have an infection that requires treatment. Physician-ordered testing allows the doctor to learn about a patient’s health and choose a testing strategy that is most appropriate for the patient’s needs.
Another difference between at-home and laboratory-based tests is who is responsible for the cost of testing. When a syphilis test is ordered by a doctor, much or all of the cost may be covered by a patient’s health insurance. In contrast, most at-home syphilis tests are not covered by insurance and require people to pay out-of-pocket.
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