Granuloma Inguinale

Sexually transmitted diseases can be a real worry when you are sexually active. Engaging in unprotected forms of sexual intercourse can increase your risk of contracting a number of diseases including HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Unprotected sexual activity can also increase your chances of developing a rare STD known as granuloma inguinale. Though relatively unknown in the United States, it is still important that you are able to recognize symptoms of the disease. If left untreated, granuloma inguinale can cause a number of serious health complications.

What is Granuloma Inguinale
Granuloma inguinale is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterial infection. Also known as donovanosis or granuloma venereum, the infection is caused by the bacteria Calymmatobacterium granulomatis, which inhabits contaminated drinking water and food. This sexually transmitted disease causes bumps and blisters to form on the genitalia, which, if left untreated, can destroy genital tissues and organs. The disease occurs most commonly in tropical and subtropical areas, including parts of India, Africa, and Asia. Though very rare in the United States, approximately 100 cases do occur here every year, particularly in states on the southeastern coast.

How is Granuloma Inguinale Transmitted?
Granuloma Inguinale is transmitted through sexual activity with an infected partner. It can be ingested by consuming contaminated food or water, and then passed along through sexual intercourse. It is most commonly spread through oral and anal intercourse, however, it can also be spread by touching contaminated sores. Women with granuloma inguinale can pass the disease onto their child during birth.

Who’s At Risk For Developing Granuloma Inguinale?
All sexually active men and women are at some risk for developing granuloma inguinale. However, there are certain factors that appear to increase your risk of developing the disease. These risks include:

  • participating in unprotected anal sex
  • participating in unprotected oral sex
  • having multiple sex partners
  • being male (men are twice as likely to contract granuloma inguinale)
  • being between the ages of 20 and 40

Travel to tropical and subtropical countries where food and water may be contaminated may also increase your risk of contracting this disease.

What are the Symptoms of Granuloma Inguinale?
The symptoms of granuloma inguinale usually appear within one week of infection, however, they can take as long as eighty days to manifest. First symptoms usually include:

  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea
  • rectal discomfort

The main symptom of granuloma inguinale is the appearance of small, red bumps on the genital area. These bumps are typically painless, and can form on the penis, vagina, labia, and rectum. These bumps are often confused with symptoms of chancroid and syphilis, however, after a few weeks they begin to change in size and appearance. The bumps gradually increase in size and begin to eat away at the genital tissue, causing scarring and destruction.

Complications of Granuloma Inguinale
If left untreated, granuloma inguinale can cause some serious health complications, including:

  • permanent genital scarring
  • destruction of the genitals
  • loss of skin pigmentation around the genitals
  • swelling of the subcutaneous tissue in the groin region

Treating Granuloma Inguinale

  • tetracycline
  • erythromycin
  • ciprofloxacin
  • streptomycin

Treatment usually lasts for a minimum of three weeks, however, it may continue for several months. Antibiotics must be taken until all sores have healed. Within a week to ten days, you should begin to notice an improvement in your symptoms.

Preventing Granuloma Inguinale
The best way to avoid contracting granuloma inguinale is to abstain from sex. However, if you’re you are sexually active, there are ways to lower your risk of contracting granuloma inguinale and other STDs:

  • Always use a condom when engaging in any type of sexual activity.
  • Limit your sexual partners.
  • If you notice any symptoms of sexually transmitted disease, stop having sexual intercourse and speak with your health care provider.

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