Chancroid is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacterium called Haemophilus Ducreyi. The disease is completely curable but causes ulcers, generally in the genital area.
Chancroid is mainly passed from person to person with genital contact, but can also be spread via oral intercourse, anal intercourse, and through areas of broken skin. In addition, the infection can be transmitted non-sexually when fluid from Chancroid ulcers are transferred from an infected person to another individual.
The disease is more common in men that in women, and as a result, Chancroid sores (usually referred to as soft chancres) often develop in the groin area with painful and swollen lymph glands.
History of Chancroid
It is understood that Chancroid had its origins from Africa, and it is quite a common disease in the Caribbean and Southwest Asia. However, the disease is becoming more and more prevalent in the United States.
Symptoms of Chancroid
If you develop symptoms of Chancroid, they will most likely appear between 4 and 10 days from the incident of exposure. The ulcer starts as a small and soft raised bump. The bump progresses into a puss-filled sore with jagged edges. The sore is tender to the touch (very different from the hard syphilis chancre) and this is the reason they are referred to as soft chancres.
Women often do not notice the ulcer, and frequently are unaware of any sores. Men, however, can experience a lot of pain when the ulcer starts to develop in the groin.
In order to effectively diagnose Chancroid, the Haemophilus Ducreyi bacteria need to be isolated in a culture from a genital ulcer. Because the chancre can be mistaken for Syphilis, Herpes or Lymphogranuloma Venereum, it is important to make sure that the diagnosis is correct.
Another method for determining if an individual has Chancroid is the Gram Stain procedure. This is conducted in order to isolate the H. Ducreyi bacterium. Even though this method is satisfactory, it can be deceiving as other organisms can be found in genital ulcers.
Treatment for Chancroid
As with most STDs Chancroid can be treated with penicillin. If the treatment is successful the infection will be completely clear up, symptoms will diminish, and transmission to others is no longer a possibility. The following prescriptions are usually ordered: azithromycin, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin (although this particular regimen is not recommended for pregnant women or women who are nursing), and erythromycin base.
In order to ensure that treatment is working properly, individuals should be monitored and an examination should be performed about three to seven days after the first day of treatment. Regular-sized ulcers commonly subside during this period. If the ulcer is extra-inflamed, it can take longer to heal as the size of the ulcer is directly proportional to healing time. It has been reported that larger ulcers can take up to four weeks or more to improve.
What Happens if Chancroid Goes Untreated?
Persons infected with Chancroid are more susceptible to HIV. In fact, it has been established that Chancroid is a known co-factor for HIV transmission. If an individual already has HIV and has also contracted Chancroid, the healing time for Chancroid is significantly increased.
- There are several complications that can arise from untreated Chancroid; they include, but are not limited to:
- In 50% of men the lymph nodes in the groin can become infected after a week of the emergence of sores.
- The glands can become inflamed and very painful, fusing together to form a bubo (an inflammation of one or more lymph nodes covered with tender, red skin.
- Split bubos are predisposed to secondary bacterial infections.
- Uncircumcised males may have some scarring that can result in Phimosis (when the foreskin can no longer be pulled over the penis) and circumcision may be required to fix this.
Abstinence is the best way to prevent being infected with Chancroid. If intercourse is unavoidable, mutual monogamy is encouraged. Furthermore, utilizing latex condoms for any type of intercourse, whether oral, vaginal or anal is recommended. Although latex condoms can prevent the disease from infecting the penis or vagina, the scrotum or anal area is left open for contamination. As a result, condoms are not 100% effective.
Getting tested for STDs regularly is the most effective way to detect Chancroid early. If you are sexually active, taking preventative measures may not be enough, so you must make sure you catch the disease early on. Having your partners getting tested is also recommended for preventing Chancroid infection.
Who Is at Risk for Contracting Chancroid?
The following list includes those people that are at a higher risk of contracting Chancroid:
- People with new sexual partners
- Individuals with 2 or more sexual partners
- Individuals not practicing safe, protected sex
- People engaging in intercourse while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Uncircumcised males
- Individuals undergoing chemotherapy for cancer
- Individuals with HIV or other immunodeficiency disorders
- Persons returning from developing countries where Chancroid is prevalent
Statistics about Chancroid
The following are some important statistics about Chancroid:
- 143 new cases of Chancroid are reported annually
- About 1 out of 1,902,100 in the United States are infected with Chancroid
- The incidence for Chancroid has increased since 2001 from 23 reported cases annually to 143 cases
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