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Chancroid: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Haemophilus ducreyi. It is rare in North America and Europe.

Having chancroid also increases the risk of developing other STIs because the sores compromise the skin barrier and immune system.

People with chancroid should seek medical treatment as soon as they notice symptoms. Anyone diagnosed with chancroid, or who suspects they have it, should also inform recent sexual partners so they can get tested as soon as possible.

Antibiotics can treat chancroid in most cases.

What are the symptoms of chancroid?

Most people with chancroid begin to notice symptoms between 3 and 10 days after contracting the infection.

Some people do not have any visible symptoms of chancroid.

The most common symptoms of chancroid are painful, red-colored bumps in the genital region that become ulcerated, open sores.

The base of the ulcer can appear grey or yellow.

Chancroid sores are often very painful in men but less noticeable and painful in women.

Additional symptoms associated with chancroid include:

  • urethritis, or inflammation of the urethra
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • pain and bleeding of the sore
  • dysuria, a condition caused by urethral inflammation

The only sure way to prevent chancroid is to avoid all sexual activities and contact. However, total celibacy is not a realistic lifestyle choice for the majority of people.

Other ways to reduce the risk of developing chancroid include:

  • limiting or reducing the number of sexual partners
  • using protection during sexual contact or intercourse at all times
  • regularly checking the genital region for signs of abnormal bumps, sores, or swollen lymph nodes
  • talking with sexual partners about testing for STIs or their STI status before engaging in sexual contact
  • asking sexual partners about any unusual sores or bumps in their genital region
  • talking with a doctor about unexplained groin pain
  • getting regular STI testing
  • avoiding or limiting alcohol use and avoiding recreational drug use as these may impair judgment in making healthy choices


Simple antibiotics can treat chancroid in many cases.

Chancroid can develop into a more serious, difficult to treat infection if left untreated.

Talk with a doctor or medical professional as soon as possible after chancroid symptoms develop.

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