What Does VDRL Test Means, Procedure, Results


Medically reviewed by

Bajaj Finserv Health

Health Tests

7 min read


Doctors usually recommend safety guidelines while having sex, but have you ever thought about its ill effects if it is not followed? There is the risk of several sexually transmitted diseases, especially syphilis, and the VDRL test can diagnose this condition. 

Key Takeaways

  • Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused due to sexual contact
  • The bacteria Treponema pallidum infects the mouth or genital region 
  • VDRL test is a laboratory test used to determine the syphilis infection via blood samples

It is challenging to diagnose because the symptoms may remain invisible for years. If this disorder remains untreated for a long time, it may affect other organs, including the heart and brain. As per a survey held in the United States in 2020, the number of new cases of syphilis was 133945. [1] The diagnosis at the right time enhances the cure rate. Here is the role of the VDRL test arise. 

In the VDRL test, antibodies are tested instead of checking for bacteria causing syphilis. When bacteria invade our human system in response to the attack, our immune system produces antibodies. The count of these antibodies helps the doctor analyze the severity of the case. The symptoms of this are either not visible or acute. However, this test result lets the doctor know whether the infection is caused or not. The doctor may also suggest this test to check the possibility of this disease in certain other health conditions.

What does the VDRL Test Mean? 

Doctor via VDRL test analyses the risk of Treponema pallidum invasion to our system. If the doctor finds the following symptom, they recommend the test immediately.

Symptoms Include: 

  • Rashes in your body without itches last for 2-6 weeks. 
  • The appearance of chancre- painful small sore 
  • Inflammation in lymph nodes 

There are also possibilities of recommending a VDRL test for other health conditions. Health care providers may prescribe VDRL tests during pregnancy to be double sure and reduce the complexity of pregnancy. The doctor may also test if you are under treatment for sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and HIV.  

Untreated syphilis can damage the heart & brain, and nervous system. The VDRL test does not react to Treponema bacteria; instead, the test calculates antibodies in the samples. In the initial stage, the blood sample is enough for the test, whereas the test is performed in the advanced stage of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). After sending the sample to laboratories as a part of the result analysis, a colorless alcoholic solution is added. In the case of CSF, a mixture of lipids called reagin is added. In case clumping occurs, the test result is positive. 

Additional read: Early Symptoms of Pregnancywhen to do VDRL Test

Stages of Syphilis 

Symptoms vary in each stage of this health condition.  

Primary Stage 

The symptom in this stage is the appearance of the chancre. It usually appears in the location where infection enters the body. If the VDRL test report becomes positive in this stage, the condition can be treated easily via medicines. 

Secondary Stage 

Rashes or lesions usually appear in the vagina, anus, or mouth. Other symptoms include hair loss, headaches, tiredness, and fever. The symptoms may disappear with time, but the infection will get worse. 

Latent Stage 

In this stage, it is hard to diagnose because there won’t be any signs or symptoms of the infection. However, the bacteria are still alive in the human system slowly; it may affect your nervous system, bone, brain, and heart.  

Tertiary Stage 

This is the last phase when the disease has spread to other body parts. It requires around 10-30 years after infection to reach this stage. The doctor recommends a VDRL test along with a CSF sample in the advanced stage. 

Procedure for VDRL Test

Usually, for the test, health care providers collect blood samples, and only in the advanced condition cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) samples are taken. 

Blood sample 

  • The health care provider ties the rubber band above the injection site to locate the veins easily before injecting the needle. 
  • VDRL blood test involves the needle insertion into the vein at the back of the hand or in the elbow. 
  • At the other end of the needle, an airtight tube is present to collect the blood. 

CSF Sample 

  • The CSF sample is collected with a spinal tap or lumbar puncture technique. 
  • The needle is inserted into the lower spine to collect a small quantity of cerebral spinal fluid. 

The VDRL blood test is simple as a normal blood test. No special preparation is needed unless the doctor instructs. The doctor may suggest Apolipoprotein - B test to analyze whether your heart condition is at risk. The Lab Test report can be expected within 24 to 36 hours. However, it is good to confirm beforehand all the details. You can also check whether any lab test discount available.

VDRL Test Result 

One thing to be noted here is that the screening test is sensitive to the syphilis stages. In the preliminary stages, there are chances of getting a false-negative result. Hence doctor may also recommend the further test to be sure. 

know the VDRL Test Means

Negative Test Result 

  • A negative test report indicates you don’t have syphilis 
  • The negative report of the VDRL test means no antibodies are produced in response to bacterial infection. 
  • Additional testing is not required in most cases. 
  • However, if there is a high risk of syphilis, a test has to be undergone after three months. 

Positive Test Result 

  • The positive screening test indicates the presence of syphilis.  
  • The VDRL test need not always be accurate. Hence to confirm the test report, further tests like the Treponemal test are suggested. 
  • The Treponemal test checks whether the immune system produces antibodies in response to bacterial infection. 
  • A false-positive result can be expected if the patient is suffering from other disorders like HIV, Lyme disease, malaria, pneumonia, or the use of IV drugs. 
  • The antibodies may remain in your body even after the treatment. There is a chance of getting a positive result in this state. 
  • If the patient receives a positive result in the Treponemal test, it shows that syphilis has spread to the central nervous system. 
  • Sometimes, doctors take the syphilis test in reverse order. At first, the detection is done using the more accurate Treponemal test. If it is positive, then the VDRL test is conducted. 

Suppose you are confused about whether or not to believe the VDRL test. Don’t worry doctor will check all the sides before announcing the result. 

Additional read: Prostate-specific Antigen Test

Risk associated with VDRL Test

The test procedure is simple and safe. It does not contain any risk. However, some people may experience mild pain & slight complication. 

Here are a few mild complications associated with the process. 

  • Pain in the injected site 
  • Minor bleeding or bruising 
  • Hematoma 
  • Feeling faint 

Risk of lumbar puncture while collecting CSF sample 

  • Severe headache 
  • Pain in the lower back or leg 
  • Bleeding 
  • Infection 

This condition is rare. Although if you experience any of the mentioned conditions severely. Make sure to get a doctor’s opinion without delay. 

Additional read: Lab Tests That Come Under Aarogyam

Risk of Getting Syphilis

Doctors recommend syphilis detection via VDRL test means for the following population. 

  • Male who have sex with the same gender 
  • Pregnant Ladies 
  • HIV patients 
  • People who engage in sex without safety precautions 

Here in most people, a doubt arise about the possibility of syphilis without sexual intercourse. The answer to this question is no. It is not always necessary to have sexual intercourse. Being close in contact with the infected person’s mouth, rectum or genitals raises the possibility of infection. 

Syphilis Treatment

You may feel uneasiness or hesitation to share this, but remember that this condition is common nowadays, and the good thing is that it is treatable. Although if you feel any kind of the above-mentioned symptoms, check with your doctor.  

The early treatment enhances the recovery rate, and complications increase if syphilis is untreated for a long time. The VDRL test is the first step toward treatment. A few ways to prevent this bacterial infection are by practicing safe sex and avoiding recreational drugs. 

If you are looking for a way to clear all your doubts, visit Bajaj Finserv Health for the best solution. You can talk to a doctor via video conferencing and properly understand your health condition. To fix the appointment, you have to download the application, provide the required details, and you can book the slot with a single click. Bajaj Finserv Health also offers a Complete Health Solution, a health plan that covers all your health needs!

Published on 29 Sep 2022Last updated on 23 Feb 2023
  1. https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2020/overview.htm#:~:text=Syphilis%20In%202020%2C%20133%2C945%20cases%20of%20all%E2%80%AFstages%20of,syphilis%E2%80%AFhas%20increased%20almost%20every%20year%2C%E2%80%AFincreasing%206.8%25%20during%202019%E2%80%932020.

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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