What is Chancroid?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2018
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Chancroid is a contagious disease due to the spread of Haemophilus ducreyi bacteria. It typically occurs in small, developing countries or in Third World, poverty-stricken areas. The disease is sexually transmitted and only occurs in areas that have been in sexual contact with a partner's infected body part, such as the genitals, anus, or upper thighs. Men who are uncircumcised are the most likely to contract the disease; however, it can occur any time a person has contact with the bacteria.

One of the most common symptoms of chancroid is a little bump that develops about one to two weeks after sexual contact with an infected individual. After the bump develops, it transforms into an open sore within a short time period, often later the same day. The sore is generally round with jagged edges and is usually painful, fragile, and may bleed or leak fluid easily. Men tend to have one single sore, while women are more likely to have multiple sores because they can develop on each side of the vaginal folds.


Chancroid sores can cause tenderness of the area, which may make urinating or sexual intercourse difficult or painful. In more serious cases, the bacteria can spread into the area under the skin between the leg and lower abdomen, known as inguinal lymph nodes. The infection may start out underneath the skin, but once the bacteria spreads, it will typically cause the inguinal lymph nodes to become swollen and filled with pus or clear fluid, and poke out through the skin.

A doctor can usually readily identify the disease by looking at the sores or swollen inguinal lymph nodes. He or she will typically prescribe antibiotic medications to kill the bacteria. If the inguinal lymph nodes have become swollen, a doctor will generally remove the liquid from the skin with a needle or by cutting into the skin to remove the fluid if the lymph nodes are still below the skin’s surface.

Even if chancroid is not treated with antibiotics or surgery, it may eventually clear up on its own. The length of healing time may depend on the individual and the severity of the infection. Treating it immediately reduces the pain and the chances of the sores leaving permanent scars. Even though the infection is not usually fatal, people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) must be especially careful not to contact the disease because their weakened immune system may prevent the sores from ever fully healing. Chancroid can be prevented from spreading by using condoms during sexual contact.


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