It's Your Health
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Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is a previously rare sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Canada, which has recently re-emerged. If left untreated, LGV can lead to painful health problems, and in rare cases, genital mutilation and death.
Until recently, LGV was a rare infection in Canada. Before 2004, it had most often been seen in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. Recently cases have been reported in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and other European countries. In Canada, 1-5 new cases have been detected each month since enhanced surveillance began. Most have involved men having sex with men.
LGV is caused by the same type of bacteria that cause chlamydia, a common STI. However, the infections caused by LGV are much more invasive, cause different symptoms and have different results if left untreated.
LGV is transmitted during unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex. LGV can be prevented by using condoms or other barrier methods during sex. It can be detected by a taking a swab from the infected area. A blood test may also be needed, as well as further tests, since other STIs are often contracted at the same time.
LGV can be treated and cured by a three week course of antibiotics. If the infected person has had sex within the last 60 days, those partners should also be notified, tested and treated.
Symptoms of LGV start to appear 3 to 30 days after infection. A painless sore or lump may appear where the bacteria entered the body - in the vagina, penis, rectum, cervix or mouth. Because the sore or lump can be painless, often internal, and clears up without treatment, you may not know you are infected.
During the second phase you may experience flu-like symptoms, including:
Your lymph nodes may become swollen in the area where you were infected - your groin, anal region or neck. If you were infected through anal sex, you may have discharge of blood or pus from your anus and you may experience constipation.
If left untreated, LGV can cause scarring and deformity in the genital or anal area, depending on the area of infection. This deformity cannot be reversed through medication and may require surgery to repair. In rare cases, an untreated infection can cause meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord tissue), and even death.
If you have LGV, you are at increased risk of getting HIV, other STIs and infections that are transmitted through the blood, such as hepatitis C.
Following these suggestions may help you protect yourself from LGV, as well as other STIs.
As this is a relatively new infection in Canada and there are concerns about outbreaks internationally, the Community Acquired Infections Division (CAID) of the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently gathering available data on LGV in Canada. Working with the Provinces and Territories, the Sexual Health and STI Section of CAID is undertaking activities to build awareness of LGV and capacity to deal with it.
For more information on LGV, talk to your doctor or visit your local public health clinic. You can also find helpful information on LGV, other STIs and sexual health at the following websites:
For additional articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health Web site.
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*.
ę Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,
represented by the Minister of Health, 2006
Original: November 2005