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Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection that is characterized by painful genital ulcers. It is caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi and is more common in developing countries, particularly in areas with poor hygiene and limited access to healthcare. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for chancroid.

Painful Genital Ulcers

One of the primary symptoms of chancroid is the presence of painful genital ulcers. These ulcers typically develop within a week after exposure to the bacteria. They are usually soft, shallow, and have irregular borders. The ulcers may vary in size and can range from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. The pain associated with these ulcers can be severe and may interfere with daily activities.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

In addition to painful genital ulcers, chancroid can also cause swollen lymph nodes in the groin area. These swollen lymph nodes, known as buboes, are a characteristic feature of the infection. Buboes are tender, enlarged, and may become filled with pus. They can cause discomfort and may make it difficult to walk or move around comfortably.


Chancroid can also lead to the development of a discharge from the genital area. This discharge is often described as purulent, meaning it is thick, yellowish, and may have a foul odor. The presence of discharge is a sign of an active infection and indicates the need for medical attention.

Bleeding with Intercourse

Another symptom that some individuals with chancroid may experience is bleeding during sexual intercourse. The ulcers caused by the infection can be fragile and prone to bleeding, especially with friction or trauma. This can be distressing and may further contribute to the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.

Pain During Urination

Chancroid can also cause pain and discomfort during urination. The ulcers and inflammation in the genital area can irritate the urethra, leading to a burning sensation or pain when passing urine. This symptom can be particularly bothersome and may require medical intervention to alleviate the discomfort.

Causes and Transmission

Chancroid is caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. The infection is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It is more common in individuals who engage in unprotected sex or have multiple sexual partners. The bacteria can enter the body through small breaks or tears in the skin or mucous membranes, allowing for infection to occur.

Treatment Options

Chancroid can be treated with appropriate medical intervention. The primary goal of treatment is to eliminate the infection, relieve symptoms, and prevent complications. The following treatment options may be recommended:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment for chancroid. Medications such as azithromycin or ceftriaxone are commonly prescribed to eradicate the bacteria and promote healing of the ulcers.
  • Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may be recommended to alleviate the pain associated with chancroid.
  • Good hygiene: Practicing good hygiene, including keeping the genital area clean and dry, can help prevent further irritation and promote healing.
  • Abstaining from sexual activity: It is important to abstain from sexual activity until the infection has completely resolved to prevent transmission to others and avoid exacerbating the symptoms.


Preventing chancroid involves practicing safe sex and taking precautions to reduce the risk of infection. Here are some tips to help prevent chancroid:

  • Use condoms: Consistently using condoms during sexual activity can significantly reduce the risk of contracting chancroid and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Limit sexual partners: Having fewer sexual partners can lower the risk of exposure to the bacteria responsible for chancroid.
  • Get tested: Regularly getting tested for sexually transmitted infections, including chancroid, can help detect and treat infections early.
  • Communicate with partners: Openly discussing sexual health with partners and ensuring they are also tested and treated for infections can help prevent the spread of chancroid.

In conclusion, chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection characterized by painful genital ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, discharge, bleeding with intercourse, and pain during urination. It is caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi and can be treated with antibiotics. Practicing safe sex and taking preventive measures can help reduce the risk of chancroid. If you suspect you may have chancroid or any other sexually transmitted infection, it is important to seek medical attention for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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