Chancroid is a bacterial disease transmitted through sexual contact. It is characterized by small ulcers that grow within two weeks of contracting the disease. While men usually only get one ulcer, women often get upwards of four or more. These sores develop on the outer and inner vaginal lips but can also spread to the perineum and inner thighs.
Chancroids often resemble chancre sores, although the latter is associated with syphilis. Chancroids are soft, painful sores that can be anywhere from 1/8 inch to 2 inches across. They have very defined borders that are often irregular and misshapen. Their base is a yellow/gray color and will bleed easily if bumped or scraped. Ouch!
Another symptom of chancroids is enlarged inguinal lymph nodes. These are the nodes present in the area between the leg and pubic region. Sometimes they will swell so large that they will actually break through the skin and require draining; the resulting abscesses are referred to as buboes.
Chancroids are much more common in developing third world countries. Local cases are mostly brought in by male travelers or immigrants who aren’t aware they are carrying the disease. Having chancroids does put you at a higher risk for contracting HIV, so it’s important to treat symptoms quickly.
There are no blood or swab tests that can diagnose chancroids; they are simply identified visually by a trained physician. Swollen lymph nodes also can be an indicator if ulcers are not present.
Thankfully, the disease isn’t fatal or even permanent. Chancroids do clear up on their own eventually, but treating them will ensure the disease is not passed on and that the patient can avoid a series of painful infections and drainages. Simple antibiotics can eliminate the disease quickly and effectively. The Center for Disease Control recommends that those affected are administered “a single oral dose (1 gram) of Azithromycin or a single IM dose of Ceftriaxone or oral Erythromycin for seven days.”
Individuals with chancroid are often tested for other STDs to rule out other possibilities. Although chancroid is often mistaken for syphilis due to its likeness to chancre sores, chancroids are soft to the touch while chancre sores are hard.
As with any STD, the only way to fully prevent chancroid is to abstain from genital contact completely. However, the regular use of condoms throughout the duration of any sexual act can greatly minimize your risk.