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Diagnosis and management of genital ulcers.

American Family Physician 2012 Februrary 2
Herpes simplex virus infection and syphilis are the most common causes of genital ulcers in the United States. Other infectious causes include chancroid, lymphogranuloma venereum, granuloma inguinale (donovanosis), secondary bacterial infections, and fungi. Noninfectious etiologies, including sexual trauma, psoriasis, Behçet syndrome, and fixed drug eruptions, can also lead to genital ulcers. Although initial treatment of genital ulcers is generally based on clinical presentation, the following tests should be considered in all patients: serologic tests for syphilis and darkfield microscopy or direct fluorescent antibody testing for Treponema pallidum, culture or polymerase chain reaction test for herpes simplex virus, and culture for Haemophilus ducreyi in settings with a high prevalence of chancroid. No pathogen is identified in up to 25 percent of patients with genital ulcers. The first episode of herpes simplex virus infection is usually treated with seven to 10 days of oral acyclovir (five days for recurrent episodes). Famciclovir and valacyclovir are alternative therapies. One dose of intramuscular penicillin G benzathine is recommended to treat genital ulcers caused by primary syphilis. Treatment options for chancroid include a single dose of intramuscular ceftriaxone or oral azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, or erythromycin. Lymphogranuloma venereum and donovanosis are treated with 21 days of oral doxycycline. Treatment of noninfectious causes of genital ulcers varies by etiology, and ranges from topical wound care for ulcers caused by sexual trauma to consideration of subcutaneous pegylated interferon alfa-2a for ulcers caused by Behçet syndrome.

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