The clitoris is a female sexual organ that is located at the top of the vulva. It has two parts: an external, visible part, called the glans, and an internal part, called the shaft.
The clitoris is very sensitive to sexual arousal and stimulation. During arousal, the glans may swell, becoming engorged.
Sometimes, the clitoris stops responding to stimulation and starts to shrink, and it can even disappear. Doctors refer to this as clitoral atrophy.
There are many possible causes of clitoral atrophy, including disuse, hormonal changes, and lack of blood flow to the clitoris.
Keep reading for more information about clitoral atrophy, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Clitoral atrophy refers to the clitoris shrinking and losing sensation. It can happen for a number of reasons, including:
- a lack of sexual arousal or stimulation
- hormonal changes
- a lack of blood flow to the clitoris
When a person with clitoral atrophy starts or tries to become aroused, their clitoris will have a reduced response. In some cases, there may be no response at all.
Clitoral atrophy can lead to a reduction or loss of sexual drive. This can cause frustration in people who are sexually active.
Also, related changes in the thickness of the clitoris can lead to pain during intercourse.
During an exam, a healthcare provider may notice a reduction in the size of the clitoris. It may also appear pale from a lack of blood flow.
Regular sexual arousal and stimulation can help prevent clitoral atrophy in some people.
Clitoral atrophy can occur for several reasons beyond disuse, including:
- Lack of blood flow: The clitoris requires a certain amount of regular blood flow to function properly.
- Menopause: This involves a reduction in the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone — which can cause several changes to the clitoris and vagina.
- Hysterectomy: Removing the uterus, and sometimes other structures, can decrease levels of sex hormones in the body and reduce blood flow to the clitoris.
There is no formal process for diagnosing clitoral atrophy. A doctor may ask about symptoms and examine the clitoris, vulva, and vagina.
A clitoris that is pale and reduced in size can indicate clitoral atrophy.
The doctor may also order a blood test to check hormone levels. The test may point to an underlying health condition that causes symptoms similar to those of clitoral atrophy.
The right treatment for clitoral atrophy depends, partly, on the underlying cause. Some options include:
- Stimulating the clitoris regularly: Regular masturbation or intercourse helps promote and maintain blood flow to the clitoris.
- Using sexual stimulants: Applying lotions and lubricants prior to sexual activity can help enhance clitoral sensation.
- Doing cardiovascular exercise: This helps stimulate blood flow throughout the body, including the clitoris.
- Estrogen therapy: Supplemental estrogen can be a topical or internal treatment, though people with certain risk factors should avoid it.
Some people believe that applying a topical testosterone treatment, sparingly, to the vulva could help restore sensitivity to the clitoris. However, there is
Anyone who wants to be sexually active but does not experience pleasure from stimulation should speak with a doctor. This experience could be a sign of clitoral atrophy or another health issue.
Also, a person should consult a doctor if they:
- experience painful intercourse
- notice any symptoms of menopause
- suspect that any symptoms have a hormonal cause
Examinations and tests can help a doctor tell whether the symptoms are due to clitoral atrophy or another health condition.
If a person has clitoral atrophy, the doctor will identify the cause and recommend appropriate treatments.
Sometimes, a person can prevent or treat clitoral atrophy with regular exercise and sexual stimulation, both of which boost blood flow to the clitoris.
If clitoral atrophy has a hormonal cause, the doctor will address this and recommend the best course of treatment. Anyone who develops symptoms of clitoral atrophy during menopause or after a hysterectomy should let their doctor know.
Anytime sex becomes less pleasurable, a person should discuss it with their partner. There can be many different ways to experience intimacy and sexual contact.
Clitoral atrophy involves the clitoris losing sensation and shrinking.
It can cause sexual activity to be less pleasurable and even painful. This can cause frustration, for example, and a loss of sexual desire.
There are several possible causes of clitoral atrophy, such as a lack of sexual stimulation, changes in hormone levels, and lack of blood flow to the clitoris.
Anyone who thinks that they may have this atrophy should see a doctor, who can diagnose the issue and its cause and recommend treatments.
These may include regular cardiovascular exercise, regular clitoral stimulation, hormone therapy, or a combination.