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What Are the Symptoms of a Chancroid?

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that causes one or more ulcers to develop in the genital area. In some cases, enlarged lymph nodes develop in the groin area. Symptoms might go away on their own, or your medical provider can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Chancroid is relatively rare in the United States.

Chancroid Ulcers

When someone becomes infected with chancroid, the first symptom to develop is one or more tender, raised bumps on the genital area. Typically, these bumps show up within one day to two weeks after infection occurs.

Each small bump starts to accumulate pus under the skin, causing it to eventually rupture and create a painful open sore called an ulcer. These ulcers can be:

  • Soft to the touch
  • Filled with or weeping pus
  • Defined by clear borders
  • Covered with gray or yellowish-gray material at the base
  • Prone to bleeding when scraped or banged

Men who are infected usually get only one ulcer, which is most commonly found on the penis, foreskin, or scrotum.

Women typically develop four or more ulcers on their outer labia and experience pain during urination and intercourse. The ulcers themselves are typically less painful for women than for men.

In some cases, people with chancroid might develop ulcers on the inner labia (in women), in the perineal area (the space between the anus and genitals), or on the inner thighs.

About 50% of people with chancroid develop swollen lymph nodes in their groin areas. In about 50% of those individuals, the lymph nodes break through the skin and form an abscess.

Chancroid Treatment

Chancroid might go away on its own, but healthcare providers recommend treatment with antibiotics. With treatment, ulcers typically begin to heal within a week. Larger swollen lymph nodes might need to be drained with a needle or with surgery.

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