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Lymphogranuloma venereum

Definition

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection.

Alternative Names

LGV; Lymphogranuloma inguinale; Lymphopathia venereum

Causes

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 by 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

Symptoms of LGV can begin a few days to a month after coming in contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include:

  • Drainage through the skin from lymph nodes in the groin
  • Painful bowel movements (tenesmus)
  • 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
  • Blood or pus from the rectum (blood in the stools)  

The infection can cause diarrhea and lower abdominal pain.

Exams and Tests

Your doctor or nurse will examine you and ask questions about your medical and sexual history. Always tell your health care provider if you had sexual contact with someone who has had lymphogranuloma venereum.

A physical exam may show:

  • An oozing, abnormal connection (fistula) in the rectal area
  • A sore on the genitals
  • Drainage through the skin from lymph nodes in the groin
  • Swelling of the vulva or labia in women
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin (inguinal lymphadenopathy)

Tests may include:

  • Biopsy of the lymph node
  • Blood test for the bacteria that causes LGV
  • Laboratory test to detect chlamydia

Treatment

 Antibiotics that are commonly prescribed to treat LGV include tetracycline, doxycycline, erythromycin, and azithromycin.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With treatment, the outlook is good.

Possible Complications

  • 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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have been in contact with someone who may a sexually transmitted infection, including LGV
  • You develop symptoms of LGV

Prevention

Not having any sexual activity is the only way to prevent a sexually transmitted infection. 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 infection. You need to wear the condom from the beginning to the end of each sexual activity.

References

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.

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 23.

Workowski KA, Berman S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010 Dec 17;59:1-110.


Review Date: 9/1/2013
Reviewed By: 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, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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