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What is a Chancre?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A chancre is a small sore that appears on an individual's body when he or she contracts syphilis, a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. The sores are usually firm and painless, and manifest primarily on the part of the body that came into contact with the bacteria: usually the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Most individuals only experience a single lesion at a time, though it is possible to suffer from multiple sores. A person who notices a lesion on his or her body that could be a chancre should consult a doctor immediately, who can confirm the presence of syphilis and administer the appropriate medication. With proper treatment, syphilis can be eradicated and the lesions usually go away in about four weeks.

A chancre emerges at the point where the syphilis bacteria initially entered the body, which is frequently on the penis, vaginal area, or lips. The bacteria is nearly always transmitted through sexual activity, though a pregnant woman with visible lesions or other signs of this disease does put her unborn child at risk of contracting syphilis. Infants do not typically develop chancres or show obvious signs of infection until several weeks after birth. When an adult contracts syphilis, the first sign is usually a prominent sore that appears two to three weeks after infection.

An emerging chancre initially feels soft and looks clear or slightly red-tinted. As it progresses over a few days, it turns into a hard lesion about one to two centimeters in diameter. Most developed sores are red, very firm, insensitive to the touch, and usually accompanied by local swelling in the nearby lymph glands located in the groin or neck. An individual who does not seek medical advice after noticing a sore is subject to developing more serious symptoms of syphilis as the bacteria spreads throughout the body, such as rashes, sore throats, and excessively swollen lymph nodes. In time, people can suffer from debilitating conditions, including paralysis and dementia.

A licensed doctor can conduct a physical examination and a blood test to identify chancres and the syphilis bacteria. When a diagnosis is made quickly, a full recovery and the disappearance of these sores is likely within four to five weeks. Doctors commonly prescribe penicillin or related drugs to kill the syphilis virus and relieve symptoms. Most physicians recommend that individuals who are treated for syphilis come back for periodic examinations and inform their sexual partners of their condition.

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Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On Jul 09, 2011

@SZapper - It's always good to be informed.

Also if you are sexually active most doctors recommend getting STD testing done at least once a year. The tests will usually be covered if you have insurance. If you don't have insurance most cities have free clinics where you can get the testing done.

By SZapper — On Jul 09, 2011

This is actually good information to have. I always thought syphilis was a thing of the past but it isn't!

I was reading an article a few days ago and apparently the syphilis rate in my city is extremely high. I'm in a monogamous relationship but I took the time to remind my single friends to be safe!

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