Do you have a tender, elevated bump, or papule, that became a pus-filled, open sore with eroded or ragged edges in your groin area? Is it soft to the touch (unlike a syphilis chancre that is hard or rubbery)?

Chancroid is a bacterial infection that spreads through sexual contact. It is caused by a bacteria called Haemophilus ducreyi and is highly infectious. The bacteria causes painful ulcers or sores in the genital region. Chancroid is a risk factor in the transmission and acquisition of HIV infection. The bacteria are more likely to invade the sexual organs at the point of a pre-existing injury, such as a small cut or scratch.

Different genital ulcers


  • First signs of infection appear from 3-5 days and up to 2 weeks after contact, and usually, a tender, raised bump develops where the bacteria entered the body:
    – inside/outside the vagina or rectum
    – occasionally on hands, thighs or mouth
    – on the penis

Within 1-4 days, the bump transforms into one or more shallow sores which break open and deepen, becoming:
– filled with pus
– inflamed
– painful
– ruptured

The next stage may persist for several weeks and may result in:

  • a painful open sore
  • the purulent base of the ulcer
  •  several lesions merging to form gigantic ulcers

In over half of the untreated cases, the chancroid bacteria infects the lymph glands in the groin.

The lymph glands in the groin may

  • swell, creating a pus-filled bulge, known as a bubo
  • enlarge until they burst through the skin
  • drain continuously
  • remain open
  • become infected by other bacteria
  • may be firm or fluctuant
  • may rupture or ulcerate

What is the difference between a Chancroid and a Chancre?


  • The chancre is a lesion typical of infection with the bacterium that causes syphilis, Treponema pallidum. A Chancre is typically painless.
  • Chancroid is a lesion typical of disease with the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. Chancroid is usually painful.

The typical chancroid bubo:

  • appears about 1-2 weeks after the ulcer forms
  • is unilateral, spherical, and painful

In men

  • 1-4 sores on the penis may develop
  • Buboes occur in about 50% of male patients
  • The foreskin may swell

The ulcers usually are found in:

  • the prepuce near the frenulum
  •  coronal sulcus
  • glans

Rectal sores may bleed and or cause pain when defecating

In women

  • Buboes are uncommon in women
  • Dyspareunia (painful sex)
  • Dysuria (painful urination)
  • Painless sores can develop on the cervix
  • Several sores may develop around the vagina and rectum
  • Vaginal discharge

The ulcers usually are found on the:

  • Cervix
  • The entrance of the vagina, particularly the fourchette
  • Labia majora and minora
  • Peri-anal area

Rectal sores may bleed and or cause pain when defecating

Get help


Chancroid can get better on its own. Some people have months of painful ulcers and draining before it heals. Antibiotic treatment, however, clears up the lesions quickly with minimal scarring. Lesions and ulcers can be expected to heal within two weeks with treatment. Untreated chancroid conditions may cause permanent scarring on the genitals of men and lead to severe complications and infections in women.

Patients should be re-examined 3–7 days after initiation of therapy. If treatment is successful, ulcers usually improve symptomatically within three days and objectively within seven days after therapy.

If no clinical improvement is evident, the clinician must consider whether 1) the diagnosis is correct, 2) the patient is coinfected with another STD, 3) the patient is infected with HIV, 4) the treatment was not used as instructed, or 5) the H. ducreyi strain causing the infection is resistant to the prescribed antimicrobial.


When and for how long is a person able to spread chancroid?

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.


Chancroid is spread by sexual contact with an infected person. Avoiding all forms of sexual activity is the only absolute way to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.
However, safe sex behaviours may reduce your risk. The proper use of condoms, either the male or female type, significantly decreases the risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease. You need to wear the condom from the beginning to the end of each sexual activity.


If you suspect you might have contracted an STD, test yourself with a self-test quiz, the STD Quiz.


You may also chat with a facilitator on LIVE CHAT.

It is an anonymous, free, text-based helpline.


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