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Chancroid: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Chancroid is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Haemophilus ducreyi. This infection is prevalent in many parts of the world, including Africa and Southeast Asia. In developed countries, however, there are very few people with a chancroid diagnosis. Just the same, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and treatment of chancroid.

Since chancroid is uncommon in the United States, most people that receive this diagnosis contract the illness while away from their place of residence. In other words, in areas where the infection is more prevalent.

Chancroid is an illness that involves sores and ulcers on the genitals. It can spread in two different ways:

  • Sexual transmission by means of skin-to-skin contact with an open wound.
  • Non-sexual transmission by means of autoinoculation when a person comes in contact with the pus-like liquid from a chancroid ulcer.

According to health experts, chancroid can spread whenever sores or ulcers are present. That means that as long as a person has chancroid ulcers on the body, he or she can transmit the disease to others.

Signs and Symptoms of Chancroid

The incubation period of the Haemophilus ducreyi bacteria is between three and seven days. After that, small, painful papules begin to appear which quickly turn into superficial ulcers.

These ulcers are soft and are yellow or grey in color. They have irregular and undermined borders, meaning there’s tissue hanging over them, and are surrounded by an erythematous rim. The size of these ulcers tends to vary and they frequently fuse into one another to form a single lesion. In some cases, they may develop into a fistula.

On occasion, deeper chancroid lesions can lead to the destruction of important tissue. At the same time, the infection causes the lymph nodes to swell and increase in size. What’s more, they can come to join together and lead to vaginal abscesses known as buboes.

It’s important to note that chancroid can spread to other parts of the body and produce new lesions. Other symptoms of this infection include:

  • Phimosis: The narrowing of the opening of the prepuce, which keeps the head of the penis from being able to emerge from the foreskin, either partially or completely.
  • Urethral stenosis: This occurs when the tube that transports urine to the outside of the body – the urethra – narrows.
  • Urethral fistulas.

Treatment of Chancroid

The treatment of chancroid should take place as soon as possible. In suspected cases of this infection (based on observable symptoms) treatment should be established accordingly and without delay.

Since this infection is bacterial, the treatment of chancroid consists of the administration antibiotics. The antibiotic that doctors prescribe most often is azithromycin (1 gram by mouth), ceftriaxone (250mg by intramuscular route), and ciprofloxacin over three days.

Treating sexual partners from the 10 days before the appearance of symptoms is also a basic measure. This is true even if these partners aren’t experiencing any of the typical symptoms. It’s also crucial for those with this infection to abstain from unprotected sex during treatment.

If patients follow the recommended treatment, symptoms should improve within three days. Of course, treatment should always take place under the supervision of a doctor and never through self-medication. On occasion, it may take two weeks for healing to take place, such as in the case of patients with HIV.


It goes without saying that avoiding having unprotected sex with a person with chancroid is the best way to prevent contagion. What’s more, limiting the number of sexual partners also reduced the risk of infection. Using condoms considerably reduces one’s risk of contracting the bacteria that causes chancroid.

If you suspect you may have chancroid, then you should avoid sexual contact until you’ve seen a doctor. He or she will conduct a proper diagnosis to confirm or discard the infection.

You should also contact your sexual partners immediately to let them know that you have this infection. That way, they can also see a doctor and undergo treatment, if necessary.

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