Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is a chronic (long-term) infection of the lymphatic system caused by three different types of the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The bacteria spread through sexual contact. The infection is not caused by the same bacteria that cause genital chlamydia.
LGV is more common in Central and South America than in North America. Every year, a few hundred cases of LGV are diagnosed in the United States. However, the actual number of infections is unknown.
LGV is more common in men than women. The main risk factor is being HIV-positive.
Symptoms of LGV can begin a few days to a month after coming in contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include:
Small painless sore on the male genitals or in the female genital tract
Swelling and redness of the skin in the groin area
Swelling of the labia
Swollen groin lymph nodes on one or both sides; it may also affect lymph nodes around the rectum in people who have anal intercourse
The infection can cause diarrhea and lower abdominal pain.
Signs and tests
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history. It is important to tell your doctor if you had sexual contact with someone who has had lymphogranuloma venereum.
A physical exam may show:
An oozing, abnormal connection (fisula) in the rectal area
A sore on the genitals
Drainage through the skin from lymph nodes in the groin
This condition can be cured with the right antibiotics. Antibiotics that are commonly prescribed to treat LGV include tetracycline, doxycycline, erythromycin, and azithromycin.
With treatment, the outlook is good.
Abnormal connections between the rectum and vagina
Brain inflammation (very rare)
Infections in the joints, eyes, heart, or liver
Long-term inflammation and swelling of the genitals
Scarring and narrowing of the rectum
Complications can occur many years after you are first infected.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if:
You have been in contact with someone who may a sexually transmitted disease, including LGV
You develop symptoms of LGV
Abstaining from sexual activity is the only absolute way to prevent a sexually transmitted disease. Safer sex behaviors may reduce the risk.
The proper use of condoms, either the male or female type, greatly decreases the risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease. You need to wear the condom from the beginning to the end of each sexual activity.
Stamm WE, Batteiger BE. Chlamydia trachomatis (trachoma, perinatal infections, lymphogranuloma venereum, and other genital infections). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 180.
Workowski KA, Berman S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Workowski KA, Berman SM. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010 Dec 17;59:1-110.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.