LGV (Lymphogranuloma venereum) is a form of the common sexually transmitted infection (STI) chlamydia. It can have serious consequences if left untreated. LGV is caused by specific strains of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria and is more invasive (i.e. gets into the tissue of the body) than more common types of Chlamydia. LGV is a very rare STI in Finland and it’s been diagnosed exclusively with men who have sex with men.

How does LGV transmit

LGV is almost exclusively transmitted sexually. The bacteria enter through a moist mucosal surface – most commonly, the rectum or vagina, but infections in the penis or mouth are also possible. Like all sexually transmitted infections, anyone who has anal, vaginal and/or oral sex without using a condom can acquire LGV. The activity with the highest risk of LGV transmission is unprotected anal intercourse. Fisting, sharing of sex toys and rectal douching can also lead to LGV transmission.

LGV symptoms

All LGV infections in Finland have been diagnosed in the rectum. LGV infection can be without symptoms.

  • 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 penis might cause a discharge and pain when urinating, with swollen glands in the groin.

LGV in the mouth or throat is rare but can cause swollen glands in the neck.

How to avoid LGV infection

The risk of LGV infection can be reduced by using condoms consistently and correctly during sex, using latex gloves for fisting and a dental dam for rimming or vaginal oral sex. If you are having sex with more than one person, a new condom or glove should be used with each partner. If condoms or gloves are not used, thorough washing between partners is better than nothing. Using condoms with shared sex toys or cleaning them thoroughly with hot soapy water between uses also reduces the risk of passing on LGV.

How to test and treat LGV

Antibiotics cure LGV with no lasting effects as long as the infection is treated early enough. LGV requires taking three weeks antibiotics when regular chlamydia can be treated with one dose of strong antibiotics or taking antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. It is recommended not to have sex until treatment has finished or you could pass on the infection

It is recommended that when Chlamydia is tested positive from the rectum the sample is tested for LGV. At the moment in Finland LGV is only tested in few testing locations which include Hivpoint’s Checkpoint Express Clinic and Helsinki University Hospital’s (HUS) Veneers diseases outpatient clinic. If the sample is not tested for LGV all rectum Chlamydia’s should always be treated with three weeks antibiotics.

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