LGV stands for lymphogranuloma venereum. It’s a type of chlamydia bacteria that attacks the lymph nodes, which are an important part of your body’s defence against infections.
LGV is very rarely seen in heterosexual men and women, but cases are being seen among gay and bisexual men.
Nearly all LGV infections in recent years have been in the rectum.
- Within a few weeks of becoming infected, most people get painful inflammation in the rectum (known as ‘proctitis’) with bleeding, pus, constipation or ulcers.
- You can also get a fever, rash and swelling in your groin, armpit or neck.
- A small sore might appear where the bacteria got into your body, but most people don’t notice one.
Left untreated, LGV can cause lasting damage to the rectum that may require surgery.
LGV in the mouth or throat is rare but can cause swollen glands in the neck.
In the event of a diagnosis of LGV during pregnancy, the risk of transmission from the mother to newborn is primarily during the passage through the birth canal during spontaneous vaginal delivery. Antibiotics available for use in the treatment of LGV are selected based on their safety profile during the different stages of pregnancy. Your physician will assist you in determining the best antibiotic for you
How it’s passed on
LGV bacteria usually enter the body through the delicate, moist skin of the rectum and penis.
Women can also get infected through the vagina. Infection through the mouth and throat is possible but rare.
Gay and bisexual men have contracted LGV from having anal sex without condoms.
The bacteria can also be carried from one rectum to another:
during group sex
on objects such as sex toys, fingers, enema equipment, condoms or latex gloves.
How to avoid LGV infection
Cover anything which is moved from one rectum to another with a fresh condom or fresh latex glove for each new person it enters, or clean it with warm water and anti-bacterial soap.
Enema equipment should not be shared.
Having LGV could make it easier for you to get or pass on HIV. But if you have HIV and your treatment has made your viral load undetectable then LGV and other infections don’t appear to make you more likely to pass on HIV.
Testing for LGV
Men with possible LGV symptoms, a sexual health clinic will use a swab (a small cotton bud) to take a sample from your rectum and penis.
Woman with a suspected LGV infection, swabs will be taken from your vagina and cervix.
Samples are first tested for chlamydia. If this test result is ‘positive’, samples will be tested for LGV.
People you’ve had sex with also need to get checked. A clinic can contact them for you if you don’t want to.
Remember, the more people you have sex with (especially unprotected sex), the more chance you have of contracting infections such as LGV. You can have these infections without knowing, so regular check-ups are a good idea. This is especially the case if you’re starting a new relationship and/or you want to stop using condoms with your partner.
Antibiotics cure LGV with no lasting effects as long as the infection is treated early enough.
Don’t have sex until treatment has finished or you could pass on the infection.
Most people get tested and treated for infections like LGV at sexual health clinics. It’s free and confidential – no-one else, including your doctor, will be told about your visit.