Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria Haemophilus ducreyi, which results in very painful genital sores. It is uncommon to find chancroid in developed countries, but not impossible.

The bacteria cause small blisters that pop and result in small sores that can spread and enlarge, joining forces with other sores to become one big sore.

The sores can get quite deep, impacting on other nearby tissue. Symptoms usually start three to seven days after infection, and the groin lymph nodes can become abscesses.

Symptoms of chancroid

  • Small, bumps or pimples on genitals or around the anus that develop into ulcers
  • Possibly hard, tender, enlarged lymph nodes in the groin with red, shiny skin over the top
  • These lymph nodes may break down and pus can emerge

Diagnosis of chancroid

There is no test for chancroid available, so it can be a ‘diagnosis by exclusion’, by testing for other STIs. Chancroid is usually only diagnosed by a doctor and by taking samples of the pus to culture, despite culturing being difficult (they are hard to grow). Genital sores with no known (or obvious) cause may be suspected. Read more about non-STI genital ulcers here. 

Treatments for chancroid

Even if the cause is unknown, an antibiotic is likely to be prescribed, with ceftriaxone (single intramuscular injection), azithromycin (single oral dose), ciprofloxacin (orally for three days), erythromycin (orally for one week). 

The buboes (abscesses) may need to be drained using an incision, while using antibiotics.

Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)