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Chancroid also known as soft chancre is a bacterial disease caused by bacteria called Haemophilus ducreyi that is spread only through sexual contact.


Chancroid is caused by a type of bacteria called Haemophilus ducreyi.


Within 1 to 10 days after getting chancroid, a person will get a small bump in the genitals. Within a few days, these bumps become filled with pus and eventually rupture, leaving painful, open sores in the genital region. These open sores are known as ulcers, and can range from one to three centimeters in diameter.

The ulcer:

• Ranges in size from 1/8 inch to 2 inches across
• Is painful
• Is soft
• Has sharply defined borders
• Has irregular or ragged borders
• Has a base that is covered with a grey or yellowish-grey material
• Has a base that bleeds easily if banged or scraped
About half of infected men have only a single ulcer. Women often have 4 or more ulcers. The ulcers appear in specific locations.
Common locations in men are:
• Foreskin (prepuce)
• Groove behind the head of the penis (coronal sulcus)
• Shaft of the penis
• Head of the penis (glans)
• Opening of the penis (urethral meatus)
• Scrotum

In women the most common location for ulcers is the outer lips of the vagina (labia majora). "Kissing ulcers" may develop. These are ulcers that occur on opposite surfaces of the labia.

Other areas such as the inner vagina lips (labia minora), the area between the genitals and the anus (perineal area), and inner thighs may also be involved. The most common symptoms in women are pain with urination and intercourse.

The ulcer may look like a chancre, the typical sore of primary syphilis.

Approximately half of the people infected with a chancroid will develop enlarged inguinal lymph nodes, the nodes located in the fold between the leg and the lower abdomen.

Half of those who have swelling of the inguinal lymph nodes will progress to a point where the nodes break through the skin, producing draining abscesses.

The swollen lymph nodes and abscesses are often referred to as buboes.


Chancroid is diagnosed by looking at the ulcer(s) and checking for swollen lymph nodes. There are no blood tests for chancroid.


The infection is treated with antibiotics. Large lymph node swellings need to be drained, either with a needle or local surgery.
Chancroids in persons with HIV may take much longer to heal.


Chancroid is a bacterial infection that is spread by sexual contact with an infected person. Avoiding all forms of sexual activity is the only absolute way to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.
However, safe sex behaviors may reduce your risk. The proper use of condoms, either the male or female type, greatly decreases the risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease.
You need to wear the condom from the beginning to the end of each sexual activity.
If you are currently sexually active, or are thinking about becoming sexually active, it is important to become familiar with all of the health risks involved. Unprotected or unsafe sexual practices can dramatically increase your risks of developing a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Many of these STDs have a number of unpleasant side effects and can lead to severe health complications.

Comparison with Chancre (Syphilitic)

There are many differences and similarities between the conditions syphilitic chancre and chancroid (reference 1 and 2)


• Both originate as pustules at the site of inoculation, and progress to ulcerated lesions
• Both lesions are typically 1-2 cm in diameter
• Both lesions are caused by sexually transmissible organisms
• Both lesions typically appear on the genitals of infected individuals
• Both lesions can present at multiple sites and with multiple lesions


• Chancre is a lesion typical of infection with the bacterium that causes syphilis, Treponema pallidum
• Chancroid is a lesion typical of infection with the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi
• Chancres are typically painless, whereas chancroid are typically painful
• Chancres are typically non-exudative, whereas chancroid typically have a grey or yellow purulent exudate
• Chancres have a hard (indurated) edge, whereas chancroid have a soft edge.

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