An ulcer is a break in the epithelium or the topmost layer of cells of a bodily surface. They can appear in your mouth, in your gut or even on your genitalia. In this article, we will be touching on some causes of genital ulcers.
Genital ulcers can appear on the penis, vagina and around the anus. By and large, the most common cause of ulcers is due to an infection, and many-a-time, it is due to a sexually transmitted disease.
What are the Causes of Genital Ulcers?
1) Sexually Transmitted Diseases
The 2 biggest culprits are sexually transmitted – Syphilis (caused by Treponema pallidum) and Herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus – Type 1 and 2). Other sexually transmitted infectious causes include chancroid, granuloma inguinale/donovanosis and lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV).
2) Bacterial Infections
Secondary bacterial infections or fungi can also cause genital ulcers. In up to 25 per cent of patients with genital ulcers, no pathogen is identified. The above are all infectious causes.
3) Non – Infections
Non-infectious causes include psoriasis, sexual trauma, Behçet syndrome, Wegener granulomatosis, fixed drug eruptions and contact irritation.
What are the things to look out for?
There are a few things we look out for when we are evaluating ulcers.
- Are the ulcers multiple or single?
- Are the ulcers painful or painless?
- Are there any other symptoms?
- Are they are lymph node swellings?
- Has there been any new sexual contact recently?
These are just some of the things that we will ask and examine for when a person presents with an ulcer.
STD Swab & STD Blood Test
We will usually swab the ulcer and run some blood tests to test for the common causes like Syphilis and Herpes. Depending on the clinical suspicion, we will usually offer treatment on the day itself. As most of the ulcers are infections, we will treat with you antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals. They might be in the form of oral medications or injectable medications.
If you were to present with an ulcer, we will usually advise that you get tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well because STIs commonly occur concurrently with each other. We will also counsel you on reducing risk factors for STIs in general, including limiting the number of sex partners, using a condom with each sexual encounter, and regularly being screened for STIs.
Do not wait for days to pass when you see an ulcer. Get evaluated and treated early so as to halt the ulcer from developing further.