What Is a Chancroid?

The bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi causes the chancroid infection. It attacks the tissue and produces an open sore that’s sometimes referred to as a chancroid or ulcer. This sore appears on or near the external reproductive organs. This condition affects men and women.

The ulcer may bleed or produce a contagious fluid that can spread bacteria during oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. Chancroid may also spread from skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

Chancroid is a bacterial infection that causes open sores on or around the genitals of men and women. It’s a type of venereal disease, which means it’s transmitted through sexual contact. It’s rarely seen in the United States. It occurs most frequently in developing nations.


Risk Factors

Who Is at Risk for Chancroid?

If you’re sexually active, you may be at risk for chancroid. If you travel to or live in countries without sufficient resources, you may be more at risk than people who live in places with abundant resources. These resources include:

  • healthcare
  • food
  • shelter
  • water


What Are the Symptoms of Chancroid?

The symptoms may vary in men and women, but typically they begin one day to several weeks after exposure.


Men may notice a small, red bump on the genitals that may change to an open sore within a day or two. The ulcer may form on any area of the genitals, including the penis and scrotum.


Women may develop four or more red bumps on the labia, between the labia and anus, or on the thighs. The labia are the folds of skin that cover the female genitals. After the bumps become ulcerated, or open, women may experience a burning or painful sensation during urination or bowel movements.

Additional Symptoms in Men and Women

The following symptoms can occur in both men and women:

  • The ulcers can vary in size and are usually anywhere from 1/8 to 2 inches across.
  • The ulcers have a soft center that’s gray to yellowish-gray with defined, or sharp, edges.
  • The ulcers may bleed easily if touched.
  • Pain may occur during sexual intercourse or while urinating.
  • Swelling in the groin, which is where the lower abdomen and thigh meet, may occur.
  • Swollen lymph nodes can break through the skin and lead to large abscesses, or collections of pus, that drain.


Diagnosing Chancroid

Diagnosing the condition may involve taking samples of the fluid that drains from the sore. These samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Diagnosing chancroid is currently not possible through blood testing. Your doctor may also examine the lymph nodes in your groin for swelling and pain.


Treating Chancroid

Chancroid may be successfully treated with medication. The infection may clear up without treatment, but medication will help you recover faster and minimize scarring.


Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are causing your ulcers. Antibiotics may help decrease the chance of scarring as the ulcer heals.


Your doctor may drain a large and painful abscess in the lymph nodes with a needle or through surgery. This reduces swelling and pain as the sore heals but might cause some light scarring at the site.



What Is to Be Expected in the Long Term?

The condition is curable if treated. Chancroid sores may heal without noticeable scarring if all medications are taken as prescribed by your physician. Untreated chancroid conditions may cause permanent scarring on the genitals of men and lead to serious complications and infections in women.




You can avoid getting this disease by using condoms during sexual contact.

Other preventive measures include:

  • limiting the number of sexual partners and practicing safe sex
  • avoiding high-risk activities that may lead to getting chancroid or other sexually transmitted infections
  • alerting all partners if you develop the condition so that they may be tested and treated as well
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