Chancroid is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacterium called Haemophilus ducreyi. It causes painful open sores or chancroids that develop in the genital area. Chancroid may also cause the lymph nodes in the groin to swell and become painful.
It is highly contagious but curable. The disease is more prevalent in developing countries than developed nations. The bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi attacks tissue in the genital area and leads to open sores that are painful.
Chancroid spreads through oral, anal or virginal intercourse. It also spreads through skin contact from one infected person to another.
Having chancroid also increases the risk of developing other sexually transmitted diseases because the sores compromise the skin barrier and the immune system. Individuals diagnosed with chancroid need to seek medical treatment as soon as they notice symptoms.
Several individuals develop chancroid start to notice symptoms between 3 and 10 days after contracting the infection. However, not all people with chancroid develop visible symptoms.
The common symptoms of chancroid are:
- Red-colored bumps
- Open and painful sores
- Genital ulcers that appear grey or yellow
- The ulcers may bleed easily if touched
- Pain during urination or sexual intercourse
- Swollen lymph nodes
Chancroid sores are mostly painful in men but less noticeable and painful in women. Additional symptoms linked to chancroid include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Inflammation or urethritis of the urethra
- Pain and bleeding of the sore
- Dysuria caused by urethral inflammation
As mentioned, chancroid is caused by Haemophilus ducreyi that attacks the genital area. The bacteria spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual intercourse.
It is also caused through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
The main risk factor of contracting chancroid is contact with the open sores of a person who has chancroid. Additional risk factors for contracting chancroid include:
- Multiple sexual partners
- Unprotected sexual intercourse or contact
- Substance abuse
- Sexual contact or intercourse with a sex worker
- Rough intercourse
- Anal intercourse
- Being sexually active
- Living in some developing nations, such as Africa and the Caribbean
The doctor must identify the presence of H. ducreyi in fluids from the open sores or ulcers. The doctor will ask you questions concerning symptoms, travel history, and sexual history.
The samples of fluids from open sores are taken to a laboratory for analysis.
The doctor will make a diagnosis of chancroid if your symptoms match typical chancroid symptoms and they test negative for other STIs.
Note that blood test is not used to diagnose chancroid.
In most cases, the doctor will characteristically prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. The most common antibiotic therapy for treating chancroid:
- Ceftriaxone: 250mg intramuscular (IM) once every day.
- Azithromycin: 1 gram (g) orally once every day
- Erythromycin base: 500mg orally 3 times every day for 1 week
- Ciprofloxacin: 500mg orally taken twice daily for 3 days
It is important to take all the medications according to description by a doctor. Do not buy them over-the-counter in chemists and pharmacies. Untreated or chronic chancroid infections are more difficult to treat because the bacteria can spread to other body parts.
If symptoms remain after using the above medications as per the doctor’s description, the doctor might:
- Reevaluate their diagnosis
- Make sure the patient takes their medications properly
- Test for other STIs including HIV
- Explore whether the H. ducreyi is resistant to the prescribed antibiotic
Recovery time may be short or long depending on the severity of the infection and size of the sores. Large sores may take more than 2 weeks to heal.
Note that if the antibiotics fail to heal chancroid, the doctor may opt to use surgery approach to treat the large ulcers.
The surgery involves draining a large and painful abscess in the lymph nodes. It helps minimize swelling and pain as the sore heals but may cause certain light scarring at the site.
You can avoid getting this disease by abstaining from sex or using condoms during sexual contact.
Other preventive measures include:
- Avoid high-risk activities that may lead to getting chancroid or other sexually transmitted infections
- Limiting the number of sexual partners and practicing safe sex
- Alert all partners if you develop the condition for them to be tested and treated as well
For more information on treatment, speak to a doctor, or get access to a hospital near you through the Uzima Health App.