Health conditions

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

What is LGV?

Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV, is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The bacteria that cause LGV are rare types of Chlamydia. LGV infection is a more contagious disease than common chlamydia infection.

Terms explained

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) – any infection or disease that can be passed from one person to another during sexual activity.

How do I get LGV?

LGV is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, especially is there is trauma to the skin or mucous membranes. It can also be spread by sharing sex toys.

Signs and symptoms

Around 3 to 30 days after exposure, a small painless lump or sore appears on or in the penis, rectum, vagina, cervix or mouth. This heals after a few days and most people are not aware of it.

Over the next 2 to 6 weeks, the infection spreads to the local lymph glands usually in the groin or inside the pelvis. People may also have:

  • fever
  • chills
  • weight loss
  • sore muscles and joints
  • a feeling of being generally unwell.

Where the infection is in the rectum, there can be:

  • a discharge of blood, pus or mucus from the anus
  • a painful urgent feeling of needing to pass a bowel motion (poo) but being unable to do so
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • stomach pain.

In the final stages, the infection can cause widespread scarring and deformity in the affected area.

In rare cases, LGV can infect the brain and the liver.

How do I know I have LGV?

Diagnosis can be difficult because the disease is rare in Australia and appears similar to many other more common conditions. Blood tests can help to make a diagnosis but samples of fluid from the swollen lymph glands or swabs from rectal lesions are important to confirm it. LGV often occurs with other sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and hepatitis C, so it is important to also be tested for these.

See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have LGV.

Treatment of LGV

Antibiotics can successfully treat the LGV infection. People with LGV should not have sex until the full course of antibiotic treatment has been completed.

Painful swollen lymph nodes may need to be drained using a needle. Sometimes surgery is required in later stages of the disease. Other infections that often occur with LGV (such as HIV, other STIs and hepatitis C) should also be treated if they are diagnosed.

How can LGV be prevented?

You can reduce the risks of getting LGV and other STIs by following this advice:

  • Always use condoms or dams and water-based lubricant. Condoms are the best way to protect you both from LGV and other STIs. Always use condoms during vaginal and anal sex, and dams during oral sex, until you’re totally sure that both you and your partner don’t have an STI.
  • Have a long-term relationship where neither of you is already infected, and neither of you has other partners.
  • Limit your sex partners. The fewer people you have sex with, the less chance you have of getting an STI.
  • Avoid sex with people who have a genital lump or sore.
  • Avoid skin contact with any abnormal discharge from the groin or anus.
  • Sex partners should not share sex toys, or toys should be washed and protected with a condom.
  • Regular STI checks are important – you should see your doctor if you have symptoms.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor.
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
  • Call the Sexual Health Helpline (9227 6178 for metropolitan callers or 1800 198 205 for country callers).
  • Contact your local sexual health clinic (external site).

Remember

  • Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV, is a sexually transmissible infection (STI).
  • It can be treated with antibiotics.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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