What is chancroid?

Chancroid is a bacterial infection that is spread through sexual contact. Like genital herpes and syphilis, chancroid is a risk factor in the transmission and acquisition of HIV infection.

How common is chancroid?

Chancroid can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


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. The common symptoms of chancroid are:

Men: 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: 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.

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.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You have symptoms of chancroid.
  • You have had sexual contact with a person who you know has a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • You have engaged in high-risk sexual practices.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes chancroid?

Chancroid is caused by a bacteria called Haemophilus ducreyi. 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.

The infection is found in many parts of the world, such as Africa and southwest Asia. Very few people are diagnosed in other areas each year with this infection. Most people in unaffected areas who are diagnosed with chancroid have traveled outside the country to areas where the infection is more common.

Risk factors

What increases my 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

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is chancroid diagnosed?

The health care provider diagnoses chancroid by looking at the ulcer(s), checking for swollen lymph nodes and testing for other sexually-transmitted diseases.

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.

How is chancroid treated?

Chancroid may be successfully treated with medication. The infection may clear up without treatment, but medication will help you recover faster and minimize scarring. Some people have months of painful ulcers and draining. Antibiotic treatment often clears up the lesions quickly with very little scarring.

  • Medication: 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. Some antibiotics include including ceftriaxone, and azithromycin.
  • Surgery: 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.

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.

Complications include urethral fistulas and scars on the foreskin of the penis in uncircumcised males. People with chancroid should also be checked for other sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, HIV, and genital herpes. In people with HIV, chancroid may take much longer to heal.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chancroid?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with chancroid:

  • 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

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: February 26, 2017 | Last Modified: March 10, 2017

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