Everything You Must Know About Chancroid

by Cheryl Powers

What is Chancroid?

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection which mostly affects sexually active persons. It is mostly spread through sexual intercourse although it can be spread by skin to skin contact. It is caused by a bacterium called Hemophilus ducreyi.

Getting into contact with the sores of an infected person may cause you an infection because it is a highly infectious disease.

Chancroid is a bacterial disease that is often transmitted by way of sexual intercourse. It is often characterized by sores that are painful found on the genitalia of the affected persons. The infection is usually more widespread in men than it is for women. It has been established that the only way that disease is transmitted from one individual to another is by sexual intercourse.

What this means is that the risk of infection can be reduced by abstinence from sex or practicing safe sex by using condoms every time.

How Common is the Infection?

Research suggests that chancroid is more common among people of a low social standing and this explains why it is widespread in the developing world. Generally its prevalence rate worldwide declined but irregular outbreaks are still common in Africa and the Caribbean regions. Chancroid infection together with herpes and syphilis has been linked with a high risk factor in transmission of HIV.

What Causes Chancroid?


The infection is caused by a bacterium known as Heamophilus ducrey. It is more prevalent in the developing world, which is Africa and Southwest Asia. Usually after the bacteria enter the body it may take from 1 day to 2 weeks for a bump to show up on the genitals.

How Do You Know That You Have Contracted Chancroid?

If you recently had an unprotected sexual intercourse with an individual and you have noticed the following occurrences in your body it could be chancroid:

  • Chancroid symptoms will occur in an individual within 3 to 10 days of infection. It is very rare for chancroid symptoms to be observed in less than 3 days or later than ten days.
  • You will notice a lump in your genitals which starts of as tender and later get filled with pus and will ultimately get sore releasing a fluid.
  • Unlike syphilis chancre that is usually hard, chancroid ulcers are tender when touched.
  • Women tend to be asymptomatic in its early stages but as the infection progresses they may experience painful sex and urination.
  • The infection may be characterized by lymph nodes that are painful occurring in the groin areas.

Who is at a Great Risk of Contracting Chancroid?

People who are sexually active are at a high risk of contracting chancroid because it is highly spread by way of sexual intercourse. People living in third world countries that lack the basic health care facilities and resources are also at an increased risk of the infection. This may explain the reason why the infection is more prevalent in the developing world.

How Easily Do People Get Chancroid?

Chancroid Prevention and Treatment

Chancroid is usually transmitted in two ways:

  • By sexual transmission where there is skin to skin contact with the sores or ulcers.
  • Contact of the skin with the pus from the ulcers to another healthy individual. In this case the skin contact doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual.

People who have ulcers with oozing pus are usually highly contagious and contact with them should be avoided at all costs. It’s a mystery why infected mothers have not been found to pass the infection to their children at birth.

The Symptoms of Chancroid

The symptoms of chancroid in men and women are different but the symptoms typically start to show in one day to a number of weeks after a person has been infected.

  • Symptoms In Men – Infected men may notice a small red lump on their genitals which may change to sore that is open within one day or two. The ulcer may manifest itself on any part of the genital including the manhood and the scrotum.
  • Symptoms In Women – Women infected with the bacteria may develop a number of red lumps on the labia, or between the labia and the anus or on the thighs. Women whose lumps have become ulcerated may experience painful urination and defecation. Other symptoms in women infected include painful sexual intercourse, rectal bleeding and vaginal discharge.

More Symptoms in Both Men and Women

These symptoms below may be seen in both men and women:

  • Ulcers may have varying sizes but may range between 1/8 to 2 inches across.
  • The sores or ulcers usually have a soft center that can be gray to yellowish-gray with sharp edges.
  • There are instances where the ulcers will bleed easily if touched.
  • There instances where pain will be felt by the affected persons during urination or sexual intercourse.
  • Painful open sores usually found in the genitals of infected men and women.

Diagnosis For Chancroid

Diagnosing chancroid usually involves the taking of samples of the fluid that oozes out of the sores. Once the sample has been collected they are taken to the laboratory for examination and analysis. Currently there is no blood testing for chancroid but a qualified physician can also examine the swollen lymph node found in the groin area.

Is There Treatment for Chancroid?

Chancroid can be treated with medication but there are cases where the infection can simply clear up on their own even without treatment. It is better to seek treatment for chancroid because it speeds up the healing of the sores and also eliminates the possibility of re-infection.

Patients who have been diagnosed with chancroid are usually given antimicrobial therapy to eradicate the H ducreyi bacteria. Below are some of the antibiotics used in chancroid treatment:

  • Ceftriaxone – 250mg administered intramuscularly.
  • Azithromycin – 1 g by mouth as a single dosage.
  • Ciprofloxacin – 500mg given twice per day for up to three days.

Ceftriaxone is the preferred medicine for expectant women because it is not contraindicative.

What Kind of Medication is Used in The Treatment of Chancroid?

Antibiotics are usually prescribed to patients of chancroid to kill the bacteria which cause the ulcers. The antibiotics also help to also help to limit the possibility of the scarring of the ulcers as they heal.

When Surgery Becomes an Option Treatment

Patients with painful and large abscess in their lymph nodes may undergo minor surgeries. This helps to reduce the inflammation and pain as the patient wait for the sore to heal.

What are Other Ways by Which Chancroid will be Spread?

Chancroid is highly contagious and can be spread easily through skin-to-skin contact. This makes it easily spread among people who share sex toys such as dildos and vibrators that have had contact with the ulcers. Touching on an infected person’s sore can also get someone an infection even without sexual intercourse. It calls for much care when handling an infected person to reduce the chances of an infection spreading.

What You Should Do If You Observe The Above Symptoms/

It is advisable to seek medical attention immediately so that it can be treated as soon as possible. Chancroid if left untreated for a long time may cause severe lymph nodes which may need surgery.

Your doctor will examine you for chancroid and if it is established that you have acquired it antibiotics will be administered to you.

How Can You Prevent Chancroid?

The best way that you can prevent yourself from getting chancroid infection is simply by abstaining from sex. The infection is mostly transmitted through sexual intercourse with infected persons. Practicing safe sex is also another way of reducing your risk of contracting the disease if you will not abstain from sex. Couples are also advised to remain faithful to their partners to avoid inviting possible infection.

Healthcare professionals handling patients with chancroid particularly those with ulcers who are highly contagious must also be careful with the wounds. The ulcers pose a very high risk of getting infection from chancroid disease.

Even though condoms will offer some level of protection mostly the parts that are covered, areas left out like the anal areas will still be left open for possible infection.

Some of the complications of chancroid include the following:

  • In almost half of reported chancroid infection cases, lymph nodes around the groin region get infected in about five to eight days of initial sores appearance.
  • Glands in the groin area may become inflamed, painful, and red. In very severe cases of such an inflammation it may need to be operated by way of surgery to help relieve the pain.
  • The ruptured buboes are usually prone to bacterial infections.
  • Uncircumcised men may respond slowly to treatment compared to circumcised men.


Chancroid is a bacterial infection that is mostly sexually transmitted but can also be transmitted via close contact of skin of affected people. The disease is usually highly contagious and will take 1 to 2 weeks to manifest after infection. To avoid the risk of contracting the infection people are advised to abstain from sex. Those who cannot abstain from sexual intercourse are advised to use condoms to reduce their risk of contracting the disease. The disease is more prevalent in the developing world as compared to developed countries. This is usually attributed to the lack of sufficient and comprehensive health care facilities and resources in the developing world.

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection that is common in sexually active people. The best way to stay safe from any sexually transmitted infection is to abstain from sexual intercourse. If you decide to have sex then it is wise to use a condom every time you engage in sexual activity. The infection can be treated by use of antibiotics.

Research also suggests that there is a high prevalence rate of the infection in developing countries due to the lack of adequate healthcare amenities.