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Chancroid is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by bacteria. It is common in tropical countries but rare in other parts of the world. Chancroid is spread by sexual contact with an infected individual. The bacteria are more likely to invade the sexual organs at the point of an injury, such as a small cut or scratch. The likelihood of transmission is greater if a person is very active sexually and does not practice personal hygiene. Any sexually active person can be infected with chancroid. It is more commonly seen in men than in women, particularly uncircumcised males.


The first sign of infection is usually the appearance of one or more sores or raised bumps on the genital organs. Sores are surrounded by a narrow red border which soon becomes filled with pus and eventually ruptures, leaving a painful open sore. In half of untreated cases, the chancroid bacteria infect the lymph glands in the groin. Within five to 10 days of the appearance of primary sores, the glands on one or both sides of the groin become enlarged, hard and painful. A rounded painful swelling results which may eventually rupture. Symptoms usually appear four to seven days after exposure. Chancroid is contagious as long as the infected person has any open sores. The open sores contain bacteria and any contact with these sores can result in infection. Untreated chancroid often results in ulcers occurring on the genitals. Sometimes the ulcers persist for weeks or months.


Chancroid may be successfully treated with certain antibiotics. Lesions and ulcers can be expected to heal within two weeks. Stopping the spread of chancroid is easiest if you:

  • Limit the number of your sex partners.
  • Use a condom.
  • Carefully wash genitals after coitus.
  • If you think you are infected, avoid any sexual contact and visit your local clinic, a hospital or your doctor.