Chancroid (soft chancre or venereal sore) is a bacterial infection that causes painful sores on the genital area. It is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Haemophilus ducreyi is the bacteria responsible for this infection. This sexually transmitted disease is not very common, but it can cause serious and painful side effects.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of this bacterial infection may occur from day one to two weeks of incubation period. It starts with a small bump on the genitals and becomes an ulcer after a few days. The bumps will be filled with pus after a few days and will rupture eventually causing painful sores in the genitalia. These sores are known as ulcers, usually ranging from 1 to 3 centimeters in diameter. They can discharge pus and may also bleed and takes weeks to heal without medication.
Among chancroid infections, 50% are seen on the lymph glands in the genital region. The lymph glands are filled with pus, causing them to harden and swell. These swellings are known as buboes and can cause extreme pain when they burst.
Men usually develop these symptoms on the perianal region or the penis. Women usually show these symptoms on the cervix, vagina, labia or rectum. Kissing ulcers or ulcers on opposing surfaces of the labia may occur in women. Common symptoms in women include pain while urinating and pain during intercourse.
This bacterial infection is treatable and chances of complications associated to this infection can be effectively reduced. The common complications are scarring due to numerous ulcers, infection and ruptured lymph glands on the genital area. This infection is also known to increase the risk of developing other STDs such as Chlamydia, HIV and gonorrhea.
This infection can be easily diagnosed by your doctor and it can be treated quickly. A swab from the infected ulcer will be examined for evidence of chancroid bacteria. If the result is positive, the medication is usually oral antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, trimethopin and erythromycin. Within two weeks, the ulcers usually begin to heal. Under local anesthesia, buboes are drained using needles by your doctor.
A single dose of Azithromycin or Ceftriaxone that lasts for up to two weeks is also used for treatment of this disease. A follow up examination is required after seven days of treatment on antibiotics. If no improvement is shown, several possibilities should be considered. These include fluctuant lymphadenopathy or inflammation and swelling of the lymph glands, large ulcers, non-compliance to the course of antibiotics, the strain of H ducreyi bacteria may be resistant to the antibiotic prescribed, HIV infection, infection of another STD or illness. These could cause the antibiotics to not work.
HIV patients take much longer to cure from infections than the general population and long term course of treatment is often necessary. To help ease the discomfort due to the ulcers, you may have warm sitz bath with a few drops of tea tree oil. You may also use Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) or Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia aqjuifolium) as vaginal douche.
To help make the healing progress more quickly, it is best that you include in your daily diet more fresh fruits and vegetables, essential fatty acids such as nuts and olive oil, flax seed or linseed oil, whole grains, organic foods if possible and drink as much water as possible. Avoid consuming alcohol, dairy products, carbonated drinks, fruit juice, refined white flour such as bread, pasta and desserts and sugar.
Prevent the Transmission
When you suspect to be infected with chancroid or if there are signs and symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Refrain from any sexual activities until the infection is completely cured. Use of condoms before having sex is a must to prevent the transmission of the disease to the other person. You must also limit the number of your sexual partners. If possible, stick to one partner that has no infections. If you are a man having sex with man, be sure that you and your partner are checked for STDs regularly.
Used condoms should be disposed of properly right after having sex. It will also be a good practice to wash the genitals with an antibacterial soap after having sex to avoid infection. If you are positive with the infection, you must tell all your sexual partners as they too need to be checked for possible infection. If initial test was negative, another test is required after three months to be sure. If you think you have been in contact with a person infected with chancroid, notify your doctor immediately to get tested.
People infected with chancroid are at a very high risk of contracting other STDs. Recurrence of the infection may occur even after cure as the body may not have built up any natural resistance to the bacteria. Re-infection occurs in less than 10% of those infected with chancroid due to improper use of medication, medication that was not completed, recently healed skin that was re-exposed to the bacteria and a weakened immune system.
Chancroid has been associated with the transmission of HIV virus through sexual activity. Chancroid occurred as outbreaks in places with high incidence of HIV1 infection. HIV positive persons may have slower healing even under treatment and they may require other medications taken over a longer period of time because of their condition.
Chancroid can cause the lymph node glands in the chancroid to be infected after 5 to 8 days of initial sores. The infection may also cause the other side of the glands to be enlarged. One or more lymph nodes may get inflamed or swell forming a bubo with overlying red skin. This may need surgical draining to relieve the pain.
Ruptured buboes are at high risk to other bacterial infections as well. Uncircumcised males may experience new scar tissue that results in phimosis wherein there is constriction and the foreskin cannot be retracted over the penis’s head. This can be corrected through circumcision if necessary.
Chancroid can heal on its own but it causes pain due to the ulcers and may require draining due to the inflammation of the lymph nodes. Antibiotic treatments can clear up the lesions with little scarring if diagnosed and treated quickly. It is important to finish the whole course of the antibiotics even if you feel better ahead of the time to prevent re-occurrence. Improper use of antibiotics to treat Chancroid may result to antibiotic resistance, so make sure to follow your doctor’s directions.