Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is a sexually-transmitted disease caused by certain subtypes of the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. These are different organisms from the subtypes that cause the more common Chlamydia infections. LGV is spread by unprotected sex. Condoms can provide protection.
LGV is more common in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean than in North America and Europe. However, in 2003 a number of men who have sex with men in the Netherlands were diagnosed with LGV. Later, the disease began appearing in increased numbers in the US.
People with LGV can begin to have symptoms a few days to a month after becoming infected. LGV can infect the genitals (penis, vagina) or the rectum. In the genital form, LGV starts as a painless bump on the penis or vagina, which quickly turns into an open sore. As the infection spreads, the lymph nodes in the groin swell, become tender, and may even rupture and drain pus through the skin. It is also common to have fevers and feel generally unwell.
LGV can cause an infection in the rectum in people who have unprotected anal sex. In the US and Europe this infection has affected mainly men who have sex with men. Symptoms of this infection may include rectal bleeding or discharge, pain in the rectum and lower abdomen and pain with bowel movements, in addition to fevers. This form of LGV can be confused with inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease.
If left untreated, LGV can cause serious health problems. It can also increase a person’s risk of getting infected with HIV. LGV can be cured with antibiotics, but only if your health care provider suspects it. LGV is difficult to test for, usually requiring both a blood test and a swab of the affected area. The most common treatment involved taking antibiotics by mouth for 21 days.
If you are sexually active with multiple partners, you should get screened for STDs every 6 months. To schedule an appointment at Fenway’s STD clinic, call 617-927-6000.