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Dermatologic Manifestations of Chancroid Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Ivan D Camacho, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
 
Updated: Jun 24, 2015
 

History

After an incubation period of 3-7 days, the patient develops painful, erythematous papules at the site of contact. The chancroid papules become pustular and then rupture, usually forming 1-3 painful ulcers.

Men usually have chancroid symptoms directly related to the painful genital lesions or inguinal tenderness. Most females are asymptomatic but may present with less obvious symptoms, such as dysuria, dyspareunia, vaginal discharge, pain on defecation, or rectal bleeding. Constitutional symptoms of chancroid, such as malaise and low-grade fevers, may be present.

Most commonly, males with chancroid report a history of recent contact with a prostitute. In addition, men who are infected are less likely to have used condoms and more likely to report a history of more than 2 sexual partners in the preceding 3 months.

Oral sex has also been documented in the transmission of chancroid.

Reports of nonsexually transmitted H ducreyi infection have also been described, most recently from Australia in expatriates visiting from Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Infection led to chronic lower-limb ulcers.[20]

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Physical

With chancroid, a small papule is the initial lesion at the site of infection. The papule rapidly becomes pustular and eventually ulcerates. The ulcer enlarges, develops ragged undermined borders, and is surrounded by a rim of erythema. The border of the chancroid ulcer is not indurated as in syphilis. A grayish fibrinous membrane covers the base of the ulcer. Autoinoculation results in multiple sites of infection in various stages of evolution.

In men, the most common site of the chancroid infection is the foreskin, but it may also occur less commonly on the shaft, the glans, or the meatus of the penis. In women, chancroid ulcers most commonly occur on the labia majora, but they may also occur on the labia minora, the thighs, the perineum, or the cervix.

As many as 50% of chancroid patients have tender, fixed, inguinal lymphadenopathy, usually unilaterally, that when fluctuant is called a bubo and is highly specific for chancroid, as seen in the images below.

This patient shows the characteristic lesions of c This patient shows the characteristic lesions of chancroid. The bubo on the right side drained spontaneously. The bubo in the left inguinal canal required needle aspiration.
Close-up view of chancroid ulcers. Close-up view of chancroid ulcers.

A probable chancroid diagnosis can be made if all the following criteria are met[21, 22, 23] :

  • The patient has one or more painful genital ulcers.
  • The patient has no evidence of Treponema pallidum infection by darkfield examination of ulcer exudate or by serologic testing for syphilis performed at least 7 days after the onset of ulcers.
  • The clinical presentation, the appearance of genital ulcers, and, if present, the presence of regional lymphadenopathy are typical for chancroid.
  • Test results for herpes simplex virus (HSV) performed on the ulcer exudate are negative. [24]

The combination of a painful ulcer and tender inguinal adenopathy, symptoms occurring in one third of patients, suggests a diagnosis of chancroid; when accompanied by suppurative inguinal adenopathy, these signs are almost pathognomonic.

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Causes

H ducreyi (a short gram-negative bacillus) causes chancroid. See Pathophysiology. Chancroid is closely associated with prostitution. H ducreyi can survive only in subgroups of the population with a sufficient turnover of sex partners. Chancroid is not a sustainable infection in sexual networks with low rates of partner change.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Ivan D Camacho, MD Dermatologist, Private Practice; Voluntary Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami, Leonard M Miller School of Medicine

Ivan D Camacho, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for MOHS Surgery, Florida Medical Association, International Society of Dermatology, Women's Dermatologic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Joshua R Freedman, MD, MS Resident Physician, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, Jackson Memorial Hospital, University of Miami, Leonard M Miller School of Medicine

Joshua R Freedman, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Paul Krusinski, MD Director of Dermatology, Fletcher Allen Health Care; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Vermont College of Medicine

Paul Krusinski, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Janet Fairley, MD Professor and Head, Department of Dermatology, University of Iowa, Roy J and Lucille A Carver College of Medicine

Janet Fairley, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Federation for Medical Research, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Mark A Crowe, MD Assistant Clinical Instructor, Department of Medicine, Division of Dermatology, University of Washington School of Medicine

Mark A Crowe, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology and North American Clinical Dermatologic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mark A Hall, MD President/Founder, Central Oregon Dermatology, PC

Mark A Hall, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Chancroid usually starts as a small papule that rapidly becomes pustular and eventually ulcerates. The ulcer enlarges, develops ragged undermined borders, and is surrounded by a rim of erythema. Unlike syphilis, lesions are tender and the border of the ulcer is not indurated. Courtesy of Hon Pak, MD.
This patient shows the characteristic lesions of chancroid. The bubo on the right side drained spontaneously. The bubo in the left inguinal canal required needle aspiration.
Close-up view of chancroid ulcers.
Large fluctuant buboes should be drained with the patient under local anesthesia and a large-gauge needle inserted through surrounding healthy skin. The insertion site should be superior or lateral to the bubo to prevent chronic drainage from the site.
 
 
 
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