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Chancroid Cause and Treatment

Updated on November 24, 2009

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. It is rare in the West (UK, France, Canada, USA), it is more a disease of the tropics, but is sometimes seen in people born in or returning from a visit to Asian countries. About three to five days after sexual contact with a person who has the disease, a sore develops on the penis or vulva. This rapidly breaks down to form a painful ulcer. Several sores and ulcers may be present at the same time. The infection may then move to the glands in the groin, which swell up into a hard, painful lump, that may develop into an abscess and discharge pus. During this process, the patient is feverish and feels quite ill.

Some patients may develop a mild form of the disease, with minimal signs of infection. They can then transmit the disease to others, while not knowing that they are infected themselves. This is particularly common in women, where the sores may be hidden internally in the vagina.

A number of other diseases can cause sores and ulcers on the genitals (e.g. syphilis) and these must be excluded before treatment is started. The disease can be proved by taking swabs from the sores and identifying the bacteria present in the pus. Skin tests (that often remain positive for life) can also be performed to determine the past or present existence of the disease. Once the diagnosis has been made, treatment with the appropriate antibiotic can be given in tablet form to kill the responsible bacteria.

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