Chancroid is a bacterial STD (sexually transmitted infection) which is extremely rare in Western countries. In the UK, only one in approximately two million people is infected with chancroid. When chancroid infections do occur, they usually affect people who have been involved in prostitution or heavy drug use, or have had sex while abroad in a developing country. This is because chancroid is more common in developing and especially tropical countries. People who travel to such countries and engage in unsafe sexual activity there, particularly with sex-industry workers, are increasing their risk of being exposed to this very unpleasant disease.


Chancroid is spread through sexual contact with a person infected with the disease, usually via a cut or scratch or open wound of some kind. Symptoms of chancroid will begin showing within one day to two weeks of the sexual contact. At first, one or more small bumps may form on the skin in the genital area. These bumps will then develop into painful open sores or ulcers. A chancroid ulcer can measure anything from three to 50 millimetres across. It will typically be painful and bleed easily. It may be grey or yellowish-grey in colour and have irregular edges. A chancroid sore could be mistaken for a chancre ulcer, which develops on the genitals in the early stages of syphilis. Chancre sores, however, are usually painless, whereas chancroid sores usually hurt quite a lot.


Women are less likely to contract chancroid than men. (An uncircumcised man has a three times greater risk than a circumcised man of contracting chancroid from an infected person.) When a woman is infected, she will typically develop ulcers on her outer genital lips (the labia majora). Chancroid ulcers which develop on opposing sides of the labia majora are known as ‘kissing ulcers'. Chancroid sores can also develop on the inner genital lips (the labia minora), the perineal area and the inner thighs. The women may experience pain when urinating and having sexual intercourse.

Men And Women

Men and women who have been infected with chancroid may develop inflamed lymph nodes in the groin. If the condition is left untreated, the lymph nodes may rupture and burst through the skin. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or similar signs of sexual infection, you must go to your doctor for testing immediately. If you are diagnosed with a STD, you will be advised to contact all previous sexual partners and inform them of your diagnosis and that they should go for testing.


Chancroid can be successfully treated with antibiotics such as azithromycin, ceftriaxone and erythromycin. Once treatment with antibiotics begins, the sores typically clear up within two weeks.


A person who has chancroid is infectious while they have open sores. Having one chancroid infection does not make the sufferer immune from having another.


The best way to protect yourself against chancroid is to avoid having risky sex, be it at home or abroad, and to avoid having sex with someone else whom you suspect may have engaged in unsafe sexual practices. Other than that - use condoms. Wash your genitals after sexual contact to remove bacteria and limit your number of sexual partners.


Doctors have been working to develop a vaccine against chancroid and initial tests on pigs have so far produced promising results. Experts believe that a vaccine against chancroid could reduce the number of HIV infections in countries such as Africa, because being infected with chancroid increases a person's chances of contracting HIV when he or she has sex with a person infected with the virus.

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