SAN BENITO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Syphilis cases have gone up by 17 percent in the Valley in recent years.

Syphilis Is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if gone untreated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the infection develops in four stages and each stage can have different signs and symptoms. These symptoms can go away for many years without the infected person realizing it, which is why it is important to get tested if you think you’ve been exposed.

“Generally, when somebody becomes infected in like a week, or two or three, they develop this painless ulcer called primary syphilis, it’s usually at the point where they got exposed. So, in the genital area of anus or mouth, that ulcers are painless, it can be really tiny, hard to see,” said Dr. James Castillo, the Cameron County Health Authority.

Syphilis can be easily treated with medication if treated early. Without treatment, it can lead to permanent problems like paralysis and blindness.

In Texas, pregnant women are required by law to get tested for syphilis during their first pre-natal visit, in the third trimester, and at delivery to ensure syphilis isn’t passed down to the baby, as it can result in death.

“There are certain people who are definitely recommended to be tested for syphilis on a regular basis. And this would include anybody who’s taking prep, which is medicines to prevent HIV, they need to be tested on a regular basis for sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, again, because it’s treatable,” Castillo said.