Chancroid is a little-known STD (sexually transmitted disease). It is found all over the world, but is most prevalent in developing countries. It is characterized by the development of ulcers or chancres on the genital areas, and is therefore sometimes known as "soft chancre". Chancroid is caused by the bacteria known as haemophilus ducreyi.
How is chancroid transmitted?
Chancroid can be sexually transmitted if there is skin-to-skin contact with open sores.
Non-sexual transmission is also possible when a person comes into contact with the pus-like fluid which comes from the ulcer.
How is the diagnosis of chancroid made?
A definite diagnosis requires culture of H. ducreyi. This needs a special culture media that is not widely available. A probable diagnosis can be made if the clinical features are typical and other causes of genital ulceration, particularly syphilis and herpes simplex have been ruled out. Other tests such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are not routinely available.
Genital ulcer disease like chancroid or syphilis increases the risk of HIV infection so HIV testing should be undertaken as well.
What are the signs and symptoms of chancroid?
Most of the people who are suffering with chancroid will develop one or more red, inflamed lumps in the genital area 3–7 days after being infected during sexual intercourse. These lumps become larger in size and filled with pus until they rupture, leaving a painful ulcer.
If left untreated, 50% of cases develop infected lymph glands, which become large, hard painful lumps (buboes), on either one or both sides of the groin.
The primary region of most infections in men is the foreskin but different parts of the penis can be affected. Men usually seek medical care for these painful genital lesions.
In women, ulcers can be found on the labia, thigh, perineum and cervix. Generally women have less specific symptoms like painful urination or pain on passing bowel motions (defaecation), vaginal discharge, painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia) and rectal bleeding. Some women may have an infection but complain of no symptoms (asymptomatic carriers).
What are the symptoms of chancroid?
- Within 3 to 10 days, one or more ulcers will appear on the genitals.
- These ulcers begin as tender bumps, but within a day they become painful, open sores. These kinds of sores are full of pus and have ragged edges.
- Some people suffering from chancroid can experience painful lymph glands in the groin.
- Chancroid tends to be more painful in men.
- Chancroid in women can be asymptomatic (show no symptoms), and therefore they may be unaware that they have contracted the disease. Others may not experience sores, but may develop symptoms such as vaginal discharge or rectal bleeding.
How is chancroid treated?
Chancroid is treated with antibiotics. If the treatment gets successful, the ulcers generally start to improve within a week. As the larger the ulcer, the longer it will take to heal.