Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)
LGV or Lymphogranuloma Venereum, is a particularly nasty form of Chlamydia. What makes it nasty is its ability to infect the lymph nodes in the body, causing them to become inflamed and potentially infect surrounding tissue if left untreated.
LGV is passed on during sex by sucking, unprotected anal intercourse, fisting and sharing sex toys. As with other ulcer causing STIs such as syphilis and herpes, the inflammation caused by LGV can give HIV more opportunities to leave one body and enter another.
There are three stages to LGV and the symptoms depend on what part of the body is affected.
- Stage One: Up to three weeks after infection a painless sore appears, either in your mouth, your bottom, on your penis or vagina depending on where the infection entered your body. However, many people do not get these sores or fail to notice them.
- Stage Two: Ten to 30 days later your glands can become swollen and painful and you can feel feverish. If the infection is in the bottom, you may get a very painful inflammation or it may become ulcerated and this causes a discharge. The glands in your groin can also swell. In the vagina, the labia can swell. If the infection is in your mouth, the glands in your neck or armpits can swell.
- Stage Three: If left untreated, LGV can cause lasting damage to the bottom or penis that may require surgery.
A swab (basically a very small cotton bud) is taken from your bottom and checked for the infection. A blood test may also be taken in order to rule out syphilis, as the infections are so similar to begin with.
A course of antibiotics can treat LGV if it is detected before stage three. After treatment, another test will be done to make sure the infection has completely gone. It is important to avoid having sex until you get the ‘all clear’. Otherwise, as well as passing on the infection to people you have sex with, you’ll also keep on re-infecting yourself. It’s also important for your sexual partners to get checked too. If you’re a bit embarrassed about doing this or are finding it difficult to get in touch with your partners, the clinic where you get tested can help. They can contact people on your behalf and let them know without giving your name.
How to avoid it
Using condoms or dental dams for oral sex and condoms with lots of water-based lubricant for anal or vaginal sex; gloves for fisting and fingering; and dental dams for rimming; can help prevent the infection from being passed on. Also, if you’re using toys, make sure you clean them thoroughly and don’t share them.