Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV): symptoms, causes and treatments

This bacterial STI is related to chlamydia

Written by spunout


Lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV, is a type of chlamydia. LGV is mainly diagnosed in gay and bi men and men who have sex with men (MSM).

How do you get lymphogranuloma venereum?

You can get lymphogranuloma venereum through unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex, rimming (mouth-to-anus contact), fingering or sharing sex toys with someone who has the infection.

What are the symptoms of lymphogranuloma venereum?

Symptoms often develop around 3 days to 3 weeks after sexual contact. In those who frequently have anal sex, it is mostly seen in the rectum (back passage).

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding, pain or pus from the back passage (anus). You may feel like you need to open your bowels all the time
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Painless blisters (sores) on the penis, discharge from the penis, swelling in the groin area
  • Sore throat, swollen glands in the neck

What does a test for lymphogranuloma venereum involve?

The test for LGV is the same type of test that is used for chlamydia. A swab can be taken from the rectum (back passage), vagina, throat, or an ulcer (if you have one). You will need to visit your GP or an STI clinic to have these tests. 

The sample is initially tested for chlamydia. If it tests positive for chlamydia and your doctor suspects LGV infection, further specialist testing for LGV is carried out.

How is lymphogranuloma venereum treated?

LGV is usually treated with an antibiotic called doxycycline for 3 weeks. Usually, there are no lasting effects, as long as the infection is treated correctly. You will be asked to return for another test after your treatment to confirm you have cleared the infection.

What about my partner?

If you have LGV, your current partner (or partners) will also be offered testing and treatment.

It is important that all of the people you have recently been in sexual contact with are given the option to be tested and treated. Read our article on how to tell your partner you have an STI for advice on how to have this conversation.

When can I have sex again?

If you visit a GP or sexual health clinic, you will be advised to take a break from sex (even oral sex and sex with condoms) until you and your partner/s have finished the treatment and have no symptoms. It’s important that you don’t have sex with your partner before they are tested and treated as if you could become infected again.

What happens if my lymphogranuloma venereum is left untreated?

If your LGV is untreated, it can be passed on to your sexual partners.

Some types of LGV can cause:

  • Scarring and swelling of the skin
  • Blockages in the bowel
  • Permanent swelling of the genitals
  • Rarely the infection may spread via the bloodstream causing inflammation of the joints or liver

How can I prevent myself from getting lymphogranuloma venereum again?

There are many great options to help protect your sexual health, but none of them are 100% effective. Even if you use condoms every time you have penetrative sex, you are still at risk of getting genital warts and herpes, as these can be passed through skin-to-skin contact. Going for an STI check or taking a home STI testing kit with a partner before having sex, can be a great way of protecting yourself and those you have sex with against STIs and HIV. However, not all STI checks check for all STIs, so it is important to speak to your healthcare provider and ask them what are being tested for as part of your screening.

Discussing with your sexual partners the type of contraception or protection options available to you, and agreeing on a type that works for everyone involved can help to reduce the risk of pregnancy, STIs and HIV. Looking out for sores or symptoms on a partner’s genitals before having sex with them, can help to identify STIs that they may not be aware of. If you do see any signs that someone may have an STI, do not have sex with them until you know for certain it is safe to do so. Asking someone about their sexual health history is the responsible thing to do before having sex, and it should not be taken as an insult if someone asks you about yours.  

Looking after your mental health after an STI diagnosis 

If you are diagnosed with an STI, you might feel a mixture of emotions. Unfortunately, there is still stigma in our society surrounding STIs that can cause some people to feel shame about having one. However, like any other healthcare diagnosis, you are not to blame for your STI and have not done anything “wrong”. Being diagnosed with an STI can have a negative impact on your mental health and wellbeing and if you don’t feel comfortable telling friends or family about it, you might feel isolated and alone. If you have found out you have an STI and you’re finding it difficult to cope, there are things you can do to support your mental health. 

  • Remember that STIs are common and lots of people have one at some point in their life, even though they aren’t talked about a lot 
  • Take time out to do something you enjoy and practice self-care
  • Reach out for mental health support if you need it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, our 24/7 anonymous text service, 50808, can help
  • Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel your emotions. It’s ok to be upset when you find out you need healthcare treatment. It’s important to take the time you need to adjust

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