Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a particular strain of chlamydia bacteria.
LGV is relatively rare in Scotland and is mostly acquired by men who have sex with men. LGV in women is very rare.
If your chlamydia test is positive, and your symptoms suggest that you may have LGV, the lab will do a further test for LGV.
How do I get LGV?
The main way of getting LGV is by having unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex (without a condom).
Your risk of getting LGV may be increased by:
- using recreational drugs associated with chem sex
- having group sex
- sharing sex toys that aren't washed or covered with a new condom each time they're used
- your genitals coming into contact with your partner's genitals – this means you can get LGV from someone even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
- infected semen or vaginal fluid getting into your eye
Symptoms of LGV
Some people with LGV may have no symptoms but can still pass on the infection to their partner(s).
Symptoms can include swollen lymph glands in the groin on one or both sides or an ulcer or sore on the penis, vagina or around the anus.
You may notice some anal symptoms such as:
- blood or pus from the anus on underwear or after using toilet paper
- pain in the anal area when pooing or having receptive anal sex
- constipation, painful straining or loose poos when trying to open the bowels
- a feeling of incomplete emptying after opening the bowels
Testing for LGV
If you think you may have LGV you should make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.
When testing for LGV, a swab is taken from the back passage (rectum), vagina, throat or an ulcer (if you have one). A pee sample can also be used.
If this sample tests positive for chlamydia and your doctor or nurse thinks you might have LGV infection, the sample undergoes further testing for LGV. This can take up to three weeks.
LGV is usually treated with an antibiotic called doxycycline which is taken twice a day for three weeks. Sometimes different antibiotics are used.
As the result of the LGV test can take three weeks to come back, your doctor may advise you to start treatment before the final result is available.
If left untreated, LGV can cause scarring and swelling of the skin. It can also cause permanent swelling of the genitals. Rectal infection can also cause swelling and scarring resulting in risk of long term bowel complications. Rarely the infection may spread via the bloodstream causing inflammation of the joints or liver.
If your infection is untreated you may pass it onto other sexual partners.
Avoiding passing LGV to a partner
To avoid passing LGV on to your partner you should avoid having sex (this includes oral sex, and sex with condoms) until both you and your partner have finished all your antibiotic treatment.
As LGV is sexually transmitted it's important that all the sexual partners you’ve had in the last three months are tested for LGV and other STI's too.
Reducing the risk of LGV
The best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections is to practice safer sex. This means using a condom for vaginal, anal or oral sex.
If you have a new partner, make sure that you both have a sexual health check-up before you have sex without condoms.
If you have been diagnosed with LGV it is recommended that you have a full STI screen including: