vdrl test syphilis

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is a venereal disease?

Venereal diseases are diseases that are transmitted sexually. These are caused by harmful microorganisms that can thrive in the moist and warm environment of the genital parts. It is easier for various harmful bacteria, viruses, yeats, etc to proliferate in this environment. These microorganisms which survive on skin or mucous membranes are transmitted via sexual contact via semen, vaginal secretions or blood. It is also known as  Morbus venereus or sexually transmitted disease (STD). The few most common sexually transmitted diseases are:
– Syphilis.
– Chlamydia.
– Chancroid.
Pelvic inflammatory disease.
– Lymphogranuloma Venereum(LGV).  

What is the VDRL test?

VDRL(Venereal Diseases Research Laboratory) test is a diagnosis process used to probe whether a person has Syphilis(Sexually Transmitted Infection). The bacteria Treponema pallidum infects by penetrating the lining of the mouth or genital area resulting in Syphilis.

What does the VDRL test diagnose?

VDRL test detects the antibodies(proteins produced for fighting against invaders like bacteria and other harmful microorganisms)in the blood which are produced by our immune system. These antibodies are produced in response to the antigens(harmful proteins) produced by the cells invaded by the Syphilis causing bacteria. The presence of these Syphilis infection antigen-specific antibodies confirms whether a person has Syphilis or not.

Why has my doctor asked me to undergo the VDRL Test?

Your doctor might suggest you undergo the VDRL Test if any symptoms of syphilis or any other sexually transmitted diseases are noticed. The early symptoms of syphilis include:

– Formation of a small painless sore. This is the place where the bacteria had invaded.
– Swelling in the lymph nodes near the sore.
– A skin rash that doesn’t itch.
– Persisting headache and dizziness.
Aching joints.
– Blindness.
– Heart disease.
– Memory loss.
– Destruction of soft tissue and bones.
– Fever.
– Fatigue.
– Drastic weight loss.
You can get recommended by your doctor undergoing the VDRL Test even if you are being treated for any other STDs like Gonorrhoea or if you’re infected with HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

Do I need to take a  VDRL Test if I don’t have any symptoms?


Your doctor might suggest you take the test as a part of a regular check-up even if you don’t have any syphilis symptoms. In the case of pregnancy, to make sure that the mother is free of any STDs(Sexually Transmitted Diseases), this test is highly recommended. Unprotected sex and having multiple sex partners increases the risks of contracting syphilis. Thus it is suggested to undergo the VDRL Test.

How do I prepare myself for a VDRL Test?

There is no need for any preparation for the VDRL Test.

– No fasting is required.
– No medications are needed to be stopped.
– No additional medicines have to be taken either.

How is the VDRL test performed?

For VDRL Test to be conducted the blood sample is collected by the following procedure:

– A tourniquet is wrapped around the upper arm to make the veins more prominent.

– A syringe or needle is used to draw blood by puncturing the vein.

– The blood is drawn into the tube of the syringe.

– The tourniquet is unwrapped.

– An antiseptic is applied to the spot of venipuncture to avoid any infection.

– The spot of injection of the syringe is dabbed by a cotton swab or a bandage is put to stop any further bleeding.

– The blood sample is then sent to the laboratory for the VDRL test.
The test might also be carried out using the Cerebrospinal Fluid(CSF) sample as well. The procedure of collection of Cerebrospinal Fluid includes:
– You will have to lie down on your side with the knees pulled closer to your chest and the chin bent downwards.

– The CSF can also be collected while you are sitting bent forward.

– The practitioner then applies a numbing cream or inject a numbing medicine(anesthesia) in the lower back of the spinal cord.

– Once the area on your back is completely numb, a needle or a syringe is injected in between two vertebrae of the spinal cord.

– The CSF is collected inside the tube of the syringe. It can take about five minutes.

– You need to stay still as the cerebrospinal fluid is being withdrawn.

– As the CSF is collected, the area of the puncture is cleaned and bandaged.

You might be asked to lie down on your back for an hour or two after the CSF(Cerebrospinal Fluid) sample collection. This will help you avoid getting any headaches afterward.

Is the VDRL test procedure painful?

There’s no pain associated with the collection of the blood sample. A person might feel a pin pricking sensation for a very brief moment after the test. There are no risks associated with it as such. Whereas the collection of Cerebrospinal Fluid(CSF) might lead to some pain and tenderness in your back. A feeling of headache is very commonly associated with post CSF collection.

What are the risks of the VDRL test?

– Some people feel light-headed and dizzy after the blood is drawn.
– It might cause Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin causing a lump or bruise).
– There might be pain associated with too many punctures for finding a vein.

What is the price of the VDRL Test in India?

The average price of the VDRL Test can range from Rs 100 to 300 in India. It varies with the location of the laboratory or the diagnostic center.

When will I get my reports?

You can expect the VDRL Test result within 24 to 36 hours of the diagnosis.

How to interpret the VDRL Test result?

If the VDRL Test Result comes negative, it indicates the absolute absence of antibodies (which are produced against the syphilis infection antigens). Hence, you don’t have Syphilis. If the VDRL Test Result comes positive, it indicates the presence of antibodies against Syphilis. Thus you’re diagnosed with syphilis.

What to do if I’m diagnosed positive?

If your VDRL Result is positive, then you have to go through the FTA-ABS test to confirm if it is syphilis. VDRL Test doesn’t give an accurate result if it is syphilis. Hence, it is important to go through the FTA-ABS Test.

Can I take the VDRL test during pregnancy?

VDRL test is recommended by the doctor during pregnancy to diagnose various STDs(Sexually Transmitted Diseases) especially syphilis. Syphilis can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy if the mother is VDRL positive. It can adversely affect the baby. Syphilis in the mother can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and even death of the baby after a short while of birth. Syphilis transmitted to the baby is called congenital syphilis. Babies having congenital syphilis can have:

– Bone damage.
– Severe anemia.
Enlarged liver and spleen.
– Jaundice.
– Nerve problems causing blindness or deafness.
– Skin rashes.

What are the other tests for syphilis diagnosis?

There are a few other tests which can also be used for diagnosing syphilis:

– Unheated serum Reagin test.
– Rapid plasma Reagin test.
– Reagin skin test.
– Reagin Automatic test.
– Toluidine Red unheated serum test.

What are the advantages and limitations of the VDRL test?

Advantages Limitations 
It helps in diagnosing syphilis.This is not a specific test for syphilis.
The collection of samples is very simple.There are chances of error.
Protects a baby from syphilis bacteria invasion by detecting the mother with syphilis early on.The result can be a false positive or false negative due to the presence of other infections




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