Is Chancroid a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Is Chancroid a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

What is a chancroid?

Chancroid is an infection caused by bacteria. You may have never heard this word before, but it is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases or STD. It means that it spreads through sexual contact.

It is not very common in the United States but has a high prevalence in developing countries where health facilities are less. Chancroid is caused by Haemophilus ducreyi, which is a gram-negative, fastidious bacterium.

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The infection site of chancroid is genital areas. When the bacterium attacks the skin, it makes a sore, which is sometimes called ulcer or chancroid. This chancroid becomes itchy, painful and produces a fluid, which is highly contagious to spread the bacteria.

Having this type of ulcer on genital area causes the infection to spread via oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. It can also spread by direct skin-to-skin contact due to unhygienic practices.

Are you at risk for chancroid?

Anyone who is sexually active is at a potential risk for chancroid. You are less likely to get it if you are living in the USA and have absolutely no traveling history. People that are a frequent traveler especially to developing countries are at a higher risk.

Any country that deprives of some specific resources has a potential to develop such outbreaks. Some of these resources are as follows.

  • Health sector
  • Food
  • Water
  • Sanitary system
  • Sex education
  • Population strategy and control

The interaction becomes, even more, higher if you belong to a minority or a heterosexual male. Some other factors that contribute to the risk factors are as below.

  • Poverty and economic development
  • Trend of professional sex workers
  • Habit of alcohol and drugs
  • Habitual swinger
  • Multiple sexual partners/ Polygamy
  • Unsafe sex practice

The biggest concern with chancroid is that it is a high-risk factor for HIV due to the shared risk and means of spread. Chancroid and HIV, these two infections support the transmission of each other. It means that a patient of chancroid has a high risk of HIV and vice versa.

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How to tell if chancroid is hitting you?

The prominent symptom is the appearance of genital ulcers. But there are more symptoms, which are general. They vary in men and women. It usually takes 5-7 weeks for them to appear in an infected person.

  • Symptoms in men

Men may notice the appearance of a small pink to red bump, which usually appears like a regular zit. By the time it may develop into an open sore. It takes 2-3 days to form an open lesion.

This open sore is now termed ulcer or chancroid. It may show up anywhere in the genital area from scrotum to penis. These ulcers are painful, itchy and very uncomfortable.

  • Symptoms in women

Contrary to the signs in males, women experience more intense symptoms. They may observe four or more bumps in the genital area. It could be anywhere on labia, between labia, near vagina or the anus.

After a few days, these bumps turn into ulcers and appear like a burning, painful sensation. It is hard to urinate in this condition, and they often experience from disturbed bowel movements.

Symptoms that are common in both men and women

Apart from these specific signs, there are a few things, which both men and women experience. For example.

  • The ulcers are never of the same size. They may vary in diameter.
  • The ulcers make a soft pointy end, which is yellow to gray. It has well-defined margins.
  • If you touch or scratch them, they may start bleeding.
  • They are extremely painful.
  • Urination becomes a problem with chancroid. (Dysuria)
  • Intercourse becomes painful when you are infected with chancroid.
  • It is common to observe swelling on pubic area and groin.
  • It may sometimes result in swollen lymph nodes, which contain abscesses and pus, they secrete it when damaged.

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How to diagnose chancroid in a patient?

Chancroid diagnosis is not just a physical exam or verbal explanation to the doctor. The confirmation of the infection is made by a laboratory analysis. The sample to analyze chancroid is taken from the fluid that drains from a sore.

You cannot confirm the incidence of chancroid by a blood test. It is necessary to understand the mechanism of any disease. When we talk about the sexually transmitted disease, the only route that they take is a sexual contact. All other organs, i.e., inside the body will never show it, as it’s not the disease’s route to infect.

If the infection is worse, the doctor may also examine the lymph nodes in the groin area, which swell and cause pain to you.

Some of the clinical variants of chancroid are as following.

  • Dwarf chancroid: Smaller ulcers, less painful, initial stages
  • Giant chancroid: enormous ulcers, extremely painful, extending beyond margins
  • Follicular chancroid: Observed in women. Chancroid hits on the hair follicles on labia and pubes. The ulcer forms at the base of a hair follicle and is a double infection of chancroid and folliculitis.
  • Transient chancroid: superficial chancroid, which heals in short time.
  • Serpiginous chancroid: Multiple ulcers, which form a serpiginous shape.
  • Mixed chancroid: Tender ulcers, which appear in a group.
  • Phagedenic chancroid: Ulcers, which destroy genital tissue.
  • Chancroidal ulcer: single, moderate to a large but tender ulcer, which is caused by any other bacterium.

Is chancroid treatable?

Fortunately, yes. Chancroid is treatable by using the right medicines in a correct dose. Sometimes surgery is the only option, which helps for a chancroid patient. At initial stages, it is treated with medications only.

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Which medication helps for chancroid?

Since it is a bacterial infection, your doctor will recommend the right class of antibiotics. They will stop the spread of bacteria and kill it right away. Additionally, he may give you painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines too.

If the sore starts to heal only with medication, surgery is never a recommended option.

When does surgery become necessary for chancroid?

 Only the extreme cases of chancroid are treated with surgery. The doctor may find a large and painful lymph node, which has enough abscess in it. The surgery for chancroid is simple and basic.

The doctor only pricks the lymph node with a sterilized needle to drain the abscess. It reduces the swelling pain and also causes infection to start healing. It may leave a little scar on the skin.

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What are the after-effects in the long term?

Chancroid is not a lethal infection. It is helped by the medicines, and even the surgery is not a major one. If you take all the recommended medicines in the right rose, chancroid is healed in a few days.

The long-term effects are only problematic when the infection is untreated. It may cause a permanent scar on the genital areas of men. The long-term effects are worse in women. It may cause various complications and invite more infections for them.

If you are diagnosed with chancroid, do not take any risk of leaving it as it is. Make sure that you consult a specialist and get the right medicines for it. Being diagnosed with an STD is often a high risk for other STDs to attack you.

It is better to take care of your health, lifestyle and sexual health to avoid other possible infections. If you are HIV positive or any autoimmune disease patient, the recovery from chancroid will be prolonged as compared to otherwise healthy individuals.

Prevention tips from chancroid

Following are the tips that you can try to avoid the chancroid.

  • Practice safe sex.
  • Limit your sexual partners.
  • Avoid high-risk lifestyle habits.
  • Control your alcohol/drugs intake.
  • Keep a record of your medical history.
  • Examine your body by yourself every week.
  • Take special care when you are traveling to a developing country.
  • Do not accept any sexual favor from the natives or professional sex workers.




The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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