LGV is caused by the same type of bacteria that causes Chlamydia – – Chlamydia trachomatis – but it is a different type (or strain) of that bacteria which causes very different (and potentially more severe) symptoms than that of chlamydia.
The LGV strain causes painless genital and rectal ulcers (a small sore that might not be easily seen) that heals and disappears quickly without treatment; but the infection remains and invades the body’s lymph glands in the pelvis and groin – 2-6 weeks later these then become swollen and painful. Additional symptoms that may occur such as pain in the lower abdomen and back (due to lymph blockages in the pelvis/groin region), as well as malaise (fatigue), fever, chills, and joint and muscle pain. Rectal sores, bleeding and discharge are more common among people who engage in receptive anal sex (men and women). If the infection is not treated, serious abscesses (pus filled sores), fistulas (tears in the anal lining), and permanent scarring or extreme swelling/inflammation of the genitals and anal opening can occur (a condition called rectal proctitis). Constipation and cramping may also occur.
LGV is uncommon in Australia, but following outbreaks of infection amongst men who have sex with men overseas, there has been a recent small increase in local Australian cases.
Exposure to LGV occurs through anal or vaginal sex without a condom, or through oral sex.
Condoms and dams are the best form of prevention, although they may not prevent all infection risks.
Diagnosis of LGV is primarily based on symptoms, as well as a chlamydia swab test. Regular testing is recommended, every 3 months if you are sexually active and at risk.
Treatment for LGV is with a course of antibiotic tablets, that need to taken for at least 3 weeks.
It is important to avoid sex until the infection clears up (through treatment) and inform sexual partners (see STI Prevention – Contact Tracing) to prevent transmission and reinfection. You can get LGV again even if you had it before.