Genital Ulcers: Chancroid Treatment

  • Treatment

    See your doctor if you have a sore on the genital or anal region. Although genital sores may resolve without treatment, it is essential to see a doctor to determine the cause. The syphilis lesion, for example, will disappear on its own. If untreated, the disease can recur years later with devastating symptoms.

    All sexual contacts starting from 10 days prior to the onset of symptoms should be notified that they have been exposed to chancroid, and should be treated regardless of whether or not symptoms are present.

    Experts recommend HIV testing for patients with genital lesions because of the higher risk of transmitting this infection when open sores are present.

    Use light saline compresses or Burow's solution to relieve pain. Cool saline or Burow's solution, both available over-the-counter at pharmacies, can be applied to sores three times a day.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    Infected lymph nodes may require drainage or surgery. Your physician may need to drain pus from infected lymph nodes that lie below the skin. In rare cases, surgery is needed for persistent infection in a lymph node, or to correct extensive scar formation.

    HIV-infected individuals and uncircumcised men may need more extensive treatment. Uncircumcised men and individuals infected with HIV often do not respond quickly to antibiotic treatment, and need to be monitored closely. These individuals may require longer courses of treatment. In addition, treatment failures have been reported using conventional therapy in HIV-infected patients.

    With antibiotic treatment, the sore should feel better within a few days and look better within a week. Complete healing may take more than two weeks if the sore is large. Healing also may take longer in HIV-positive individuals, and in uncircumcised men who have sores under the foreskin.

    Affected lymph nodes may take longer to heal. In some cases, they need to be drained with a needle or opened surgically to remove pus.

    Sometimes infections persist and need more aggressive treatment. In a few cases, scars may remain. Some sores may become secondarily infected with other bacteria, requiring additional antibiotic treatment. Such sores may also enlarge rapidly and destroy nearby tissue. Scars may remain after a severe infection.

    Patients should follow up with a doctor within a week after starting antibiotic therapy to be sure that treatment is working. The sore should feel better within three days of starting antibiotics, and should look better by one week. If not, the doctor must determine if the bacteria is resistant to the prescribed antibiotic, and if an alternative medication should be used. If the sores still haven't healed after an alternative medication is used, your doctor will consider the possibility that you have a different disease.

    Sexual contacts need to be notified. All sexual contacts starting from 10 days prior to the onset of symptoms should be notified that they have been exposed to chancroid, and be treated regardless of whether or not symptoms are present.

    Patients with chancroid should be tested for HIV and syphilis. The open sore of chancroid makes transmission of other diseases more likely to occur. Some experts estimate that 10% of individuals with chancroid are also infected with HIV or syphilis. All patients should be tested at the time chancroid is diagnosed. If the results are negative, they should be retested three months later, as both syphilis and HIV tests detect an immune response that may take several weeks to develop.

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