Chancroid: An Overview

Doctor filling in gynaecological chart, close-up, mid section, elevated view
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Chancroid is a sexually transmitted genital ulcer disease caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. Although not commonly seen in the United States, it is a relatively common disease in the developing world. As with syphilis, the open sores caused by chancroid increase a person's risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

The early signs of chancroid may be mistaken for syphilis - a small pustule becomes an ulcer, usually within 4-10 days after exposure.

However, the ulcers generally grow to a larger size, and are more painful than those ulcers associated with syphilis. Chancroid may also lead to swelling, tenderness, and inflammation of the lymph nodes in the groin, a side effect not associated with syphilis.

Chancroid is treated with antibiotics. However, treatment is less effective for uncircumcised men and individuals who are HIV positive. That's why the CDC recommends that anyone undergoing treatment be examined again by a doctor 3-7 days after treatment begins. For most people, symptoms will start to improve within that time if treatment is working. Similarly, because of the rarity of the disease, anyone who is suspected to have chancroid should also be tested for HIV.

Immigrants, Refugees, and Chancroid

Chancroid is relatively uncommon in the U.S. Cases peaked in the late 1980s and then quickly declined until infections were rare enough to make test access difficult.

In 2013, a mere 10 cases were diagnosed in the entire country, in Alabama, Texas, Massachusetts, and California!

When chancroid appears in the US, it is more likely to be seen in refugees or immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, as well as in sex partners of people in  these groups. It's actually on the decline around the world, causing serious problems mostly in areas where HIV is endemic, as the chancroid ulcers provide an easy route for infection.

For More Information:

  • Chancroid Symptoms (Warning: Photos May Offend Some Viewers)
  • Chancroid Diagnosis
  • Chancroid Treatment


CDC. 2013 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance: Other STDs. Accessed 9/12/2015 at

CDC. 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines - Diseases Characterized by Genital, Anal, or Perianal Ulcers - Chancroid. Accessed 9/12/2015 at

CDC.Refugee Health Guidelines: Chancroid. Accessed 9/12/2015 at

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Chancroid. Accessed 5/28/07 at

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