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Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention of the Ulcer-Causing STI

Key Points

  • Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Haemophilus Ducreyi, resulting in ulcer-like genital sores, primarily spread through sexual contact.
  • The infection is uncommon in the United States, more prevalent in Africa and Asia, with sexually active individuals, particularly men with uncircumcised penises, at higher risk.
  • Symptoms include painful, soft ulcers with well-defined borders, often mistaken for syphilis or genital herpes due to similar physical manifestations.
  • Diagnosis is primarily through exclusion of other STIs, with treatment involving antibiotics like azithromycin, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, or erythromycin, leading to recovery within 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Prevention strategies include practicing safe sex, using condoms and dental dams, reducing the number of sexual partners, and open communication about sexual health with partners.

What is chancroid?

Chancroid is an STI that is caused by bacteria and, according to the CDC, It causes ulcer-like sores on the genitals and can be cured with antibiotic treatment.

Chancroid causes

Chancroid is caused by a bacteria called Haemophilus Ducreyi. This bacteria causes genital sores and can spread through sexual contact.

How common is chancroid?

According to CDC data, Chancroid is uncommon in the United States and is more common in areas of Africa and Asia.

How is chancroid spread?

Chancroid is spread through sexual contact, says the CDC, including:

  • vaginal sex
  • anal sex
  • oral sex

When and for how long is a person able to spread chancroid?

Chancroid is contagious for as long as the infected person has open sores, says the New York State Department of Health.

Who is at risk for chancroid?

People who are sexually active, particularly in African and Asian countries are at risk for contracting chancroid, reports the CDC.

Although both men and women can get chancroid, it is more common in men with uncircumcised penises.

Chancroid symptoms

According to Mount Sinai Health Library, chancroid appears as a small bump that then becomes an ulcer-like sore.

The physical symptoms of chancroid are similar to syphilis, therefore can be difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone.

Chancroid symptoms in men

Uncircumcised men are more prone to chancroid infections, however, they tend to have fewer physical symptoms (sores). According to Mount Sinai Health Library, the most common locations to find a chancroid sore in men are:

  • Foreskin
  • Behind the coronal ridge
  • Shaft and head of the penis
  • Opening of the penis
  • Anywhere on the scrotum

Chancroid symptoms in women

According to Mount Sinai Health Library, women with a chancroid infection will often have “kissing ulcers”. This is when an ulcer appears on the exact opposite sides of the labia. The most common areas for a chancroid ulcer to appear in women are:

  • Labia minora
  • Labia majora
  • Perineal area
  • Inner thighs

Additional symptoms and characteristics

According to Mount Sinai Health Library, the characteristics of chancroid sores are:

  • Ulcer-like sores that can be up to 5 centimeters in size
  • Painful
  • Soft
  • Well-defined borders
  • Gray or yellow-gray base
  • Bleeds easily when irritated

How soon do symptoms appear?

According to the Cleveland clinic the incubation period of chancroid is 3 to 7 days.

Getting tested and diagnosed with chancroid

There is no definitive test for chancroid, so it is diagnosed by ruling out other STIs. Common places to get STI testing often include:

  • Urgent care clinics
  • Walk-in clinics
  • Primary care clinics
  • Gynecology clinics

How is chancroid diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose chancroid by performing a physical examination, asking about your sexual history, and ordering STI testing.

Chancroid & syphilis

The sores associated with chancroid are often mistaken for syphilis, notes the Cleveland Clinic. However, these two STIs are caused by different bacteria. Testing negative for syphilis and other STIs will usually lead to a chancroid diagnosis.

Chancre vs. chancroid

Because of their similar spelling, and relation to STIs—chancre and chancroid are often mixed up.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a chancre (SHANG-kur) is a small sore that is often the first sign of syphilis, whereas chancroid is a treatable STI caused by a different bacteria.

Chancroid vs herpes

Chancroid can sometimes be mistaken for genital herpes. However, they are caused by different germs. Both are treatable with antibiotics, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

Chancroid Treatment

Chancroid is a treatable STI that is commonly treated with antibiotics notes the Cleveland Clinic.

How is chancroid treated?

Treatment for chancroid is prescribed either in a single megadose, multiple doses over several days, or by injection—depending on which antibiotic is chosen, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Medications for chancroid

According to the CDC, the most common antibiotics used to treat chancroid are:

  • azithromycin
  • ceftriaxone
  • ciprofloxacin
  • erythromycin

Surgery for Chancroid

Surgery is typically not recommended for a chancroid infection.

How long does it take to recover from treatment for chancroid?

Most people respond well to antibiotic treatment and will recover from the infection within 1 to 2 weeks, reports the CDC.

Will chancroid clear up on its own?

Chancroid is a bacterial infection that will not usually heal on its own. Because chancroid sores can cause scar tissue and spread to other people, prompt treatment is recommended, reports the CDC.

Preventing Chancroid

Chancroid is spread by sexual contact, so practicing safe sex techniques like using condoms can help prevent it, according to the CDC.

How can I reduce my risk of developing chancroid?

The CDC reports that you can reduce your risk of developing chancroid by:

  • Using condoms correctly, every time
  • Using dental dams during oral sex
  • Reducing your number of lifetime sexual partners

Honest communication with your sexual partners about their sexual health and recent screenings will also reduce your risk of contracting chancroid and other STIs.

How can the spread of chancroid be prevented?

Abstaining from sex during infection is the best way to prevent the spread of chancroid, according to the CDC.

Common questions people have about chancroid

Is there a difference between syphilis and chancroid?

Yes, syphilis and chancroid are caused by two different bacteria. However, they can have similar symptoms and are both curable, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you have had sex and are experiencing the symptoms of chancroid, you should see a healthcare provider immediately.

What is my outlook if I have chancroid?

Chancroid is curable with the proper antibiotic treatment, notes the CDC.

Where is chancroid most common?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Chancroid is more common in African and Asian countries.

How many people get chancroid each year?

According to the CDC, fewer than a dozen people are diagnosed with chancroid in the United States each year.

Is there a link between chancroid and HIV?

According to the CDC, chancroid is a risk factor in contracting and spreading HIV.

Is there a vaccine for chancroid?

Currently, there is no vaccine for chancroid.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is Chancroid?

    Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection caused by Haemophilus Ducreyi bacteria, which results in ulcer-like sores on the genitals.
  • How is Chancroid transmitted?

    Chancroid is transmitted through sexual contact and remains contagious as long as the person has open sores.
  • What are the symptoms of Chancroid?

    Symptoms of Chancroid include a small bump that develops into an ulcer-like sore. These symptoms often resemble those of syphilis.
  • How is Chancroid diagnosed?

    Chancroid is diagnosed by ruling out other sexually transmitted infections through a physical examination and a review of the patient's sexual history.
  • What is the treatment for Chancroid?

    The treatment for Chancroid typically involves antibiotics, with most people recovering within 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Can Chancroid heal on its own?

    No, Chancroid is unlikely to heal on its own and can cause scar tissue if left untreated.
  • How can Chancroid be prevented?

    Chancroid can be prevented by practicing safe sex, using condoms, reducing the number of lifetime sexual partners, and abstaining from sex during infection.
  • Does Chancroid increase the risk of contracting and spreading HIV?

    Yes, Chancroid can increase the risk of contracting and spreading HIV.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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