Chancroid is a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, caused by a bacterial infection. A chancroid is characterized by painful, irregularly shaped sores that develop in the genital area. Chancroid is prevalent in developing nations and under-developed parts of the world. There are less than a hundred reported cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Most of the people diagnosed with chancroid are men who have traveled outside of the United States to areas where the disease is prevalent.
Symptoms of Chancroid
Within a day and up to two weeks after infection, patients may notice a small bump in the genital area. The bump will then become a small ulcer or a chancre, within a day of the appearance of the bump. Over the course of time, chancroid symptoms may include:
- Painful ulcers or sores
- Ulcers covered with a grey or yellow film
- Sores merging into a massive ulcer
- Ulcers that bleed easily
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area
In men, the sores most often appear on the scrotum or the foreskin, shaft, head or urethral opening of the penis. In women, the sores appear on the outer lips of the vagina or inner thighs. While men are more likely to experience pain from the chancroids, many women do not experience symptoms and some may not be aware that they are infected. Men tend to only develop one sore, while women may have several at a time.
Diagnosis of Chancroid
Doctors can diagnose chancroids through a physical examination and checking for swollen lymph nodes. Because this condition may be mistaken for syphilis, herpes and other STDs, the physician may need to rule out other diseases before a diagnosis is confirmed and a treatment plan can be developed.
Treatment of Chancroid
A chancroid infection may sometimes improve on its own with no need for treatment, but this often leaves patients with painful lesions and the possibility of spreading the disease to others. Treatment for a chancroid infection often includes the use of antibiotics. These medications can clear the infection, relieve symptoms and prevent the spread of the disease. Most ulcers improve within three to seven days, although larger ulcers may take longer to heal.
Complications of Chancroid
In addition to sores, nearly half of all patients infected with chancroid develop enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area, between the leg and lower abdomen. In some cases, large lymph nodes may need to be drained either with a needle or minimally invasive surgery. An active chancroid infection also increases a patient's risk of developing other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Patients already infected with HIV, who acquire a chancroid infection, may have a prolonged healing period.
Prevention of Chancroid
Similar to other STDs, a chancroid infection may be prevented through abstinence or safe, monogamous sex. Using a condom for vaginal, oral and anal sex can reduce the risk of acquiring an infection, but cannot protect areas such as the scrotum or anal area, where sores can exist. It is important for infected patients to maintain open and honest communication with their partner in order to prevent the spread of this disease. Partners of those infected should be promptly tested and treated for infection as well.