Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)

Description

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is an infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. A person can have LGV more than once in his or her life.

Symptoms

People infected with LGV do not always show symptoms. A person may be infected without knowing it.

If left untreated, LGV can develop in 3 stages:

  • primary
  • secondary
  • tertiary

Symptoms vary depending on the stage of infection.

Primary stage

Symptoms in the primary stage appear 3 to 30 days following transmission of the bacterium.

One or more painless lesions may appear where the bacterium entered the body:

  • Penis
  • Vulva
  • Vagina
  • Cervix 
  • Rectum 
  • Mouth
  • Throat

These lesions often go unnoticed. They go away without treatment in a few days.

However, the bacterium remains in the body and can lead to complications. 

Secondary stage

Symptoms in the secondary stage appear 2 to 6 weeks after the lesions have gone away. These symptoms may include: 

  • Swollen and painful lymph glands (red bumps with burning sensation) in the groin or neck 
  • Anal discharge containing blood or pus 
  • Creamy white pus from lymph glands
  • Fever
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Constipation

These symptoms may last several weeks or months. 

Tertiary stage

If left untreated, LGV can cause serious damage. Symptoms in the tertiary stage appear 1 to 20 years after transmission of the bacterium in the form of major damage (such as deformities) to the genital or anal area. 

When to Consult

If you have symptoms, or if you have had unprotected sex, consult a health-care professional or call Info-Santé 811.

Treatment

LGV is treated with medication. When an infection is in the primary or secondary stage, treatment heals it completely. However, the damage caused in the tertiary stage can be permanent. People infected must be treated as soon as possible to avoid complications.

Medication to treat LGV is free for those infected and for their sexual partners. To receive medication, infected people and their partners must first get a prescription. They can then obtain medicine at a pharmacy upon presentation of their health insurance card.

Precautions to take during treatment

Treatment requires a certain amount of time to heal the infection. During this period, the person is still contagious.

In order not to spread LGV or catch it again, the infected person and his or her partners must avoid having sex until they are healed.

Before having sex, the infected person and his or her partners must wait:

  • Until the end of the treatment, if it involves taking pills for several days
  • 7 days after treatment, if it involves a single dose

Also, they must wait until any symptoms are completely gone.

If they cannot wait, the infected person and his or her partners can use a condom. They may also use a sheet of latex to cover the vulva or anus during oral sex. This way, the mouth does not come into direct contact with the genitals. A sheet of latex can be made by unrolling a condom, cutting off both ends and then cutting it lengthwise. 

Inform partners

People with LGV should inform their sexual partners immediately. This way:

  • They can avoid getting LGV again from untreated partners.
  • Their partners can quickly get tested, receive appropriate treatment and avoid complications.
  • Their partners can avoid spreading the infection to other people.

Complications

If left untreated, LGV can lead to the following complications: 

  • Ulcers on the genitals, in the anus or in the rectum  
  • Deformation of the vagina, urethra or rectum caused by chronic inflammation
  • Swelling of the genitals (penis, vulva, vagina) or the anus caused by obstruction of the lymphatic vessels

LGV also increases the risk of getting or spreading HIV.

Transmission

An infected person can spread LGV even if he or she has no symptoms. 

Sexual transmission can occur during:

  • Oral sex (contact of the mouth with the penis, vulva, vagina or anus)
  • Vaginal sex (penetration of the vagina with the penis)
  • Anal sex (penetration of the anus with the penis)
  • Genital contact between partners
  • Sharing of sex toys

Sexual transmission can occur in the absence of penetration, orgasm or ejaculation.

An infected mother can pass on LGV to her baby during childbirth. For further information, read the Sexually Transmitted and Blood-borne Infections (STBBIs) and Pregnancy page.

Protection and Prevention

Vaccination

There is no vaccine to protect against LGV. 

Sexual protection

For the best protection against LGV, use a condom:

  • During all contact between genital organs
  • During the entire course of oral, vaginal or anal sex
  • With each sexual encounter

The use of a sheet of latex to cover the vulva or anus during oral sex lowers the risk of spreading LGV. It helps prevent direct contact between the mouth and the genitals. A sheet of latex can be made by unrolling a condom, cutting off both ends and then cutting it lengthwise.

Sex toys should not be shared. People who share sex toys can lower the risk of spreading LGV by covering them with a condom. They must change condoms after each partner.

The use of a latex glove lowers the risk of spreading LVG during fingering or fisting of the anus. The glove must be changed after each partner. 

Testing

LGV is usually detected when there are symptoms. If you have symptoms, consult a health-care professional. 

For more information, consult a health-care professional or call Info-Santé 811.

Last update: March 9, 2017 3:22 PM

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