Clitoris Pain (Clitorodynia)

Overview

What is clitoris pain?

Clitoris pain usually happens when your clitoris or vulva (your external genitals) get damaged or injured. Your clitoris is a pleasure organ found in the front of your vagina and on top of your urethra (the hole you pee from). It contains thousands of sensory nerves, some of which extend more than 5 inches inside your body. Touching and stimulating your clitoris can cause sexual arousal or orgasm.

Many women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB) experience clitoris pain that worsens during sex or with activities such as walking or biking. People describe the pain as burning, throbbing or aching. Your healthcare provider can diagnose clitorodynia (the medical term for clitoris pain) during an examination. Most cases of clitoris pain are mild and treatable. It’s rarely a sign of a serious medical condition.

Possible Causes

What does clitoral pain feel like?

Your clitoris is highly sensitive because contains thousands of nerves. Clitoris pain can be mild or severe and occur daily or come and go depending on what you’re doing. The type of pain varies from person to person, but it can disrupt your daily life.

Some of the words used to describe clitoral pain are:

  • Stinging or burning.
  • Throbbing or aching.
  • Itchy.
  • Stabbing or shooting.

Often, the pain is felt throughout your genital region or in your pelvis.

Certain activities like wearing tight clothing, peeing and showering may make your pain worse. Exercising, walking or sitting for extended periods of time may become difficult. Many people with clitorodynia avoid sexual intercourse and experience issues with intimate relationships.

If clitoral pain is caused by an infection, you may have symptoms like fever, chills or body aches. In rare cases, it’s a sign of a medical emergency. Seek immediate care if you have a high fever, increased heart rate or debilitating pain in your stomach, pelvis or low back.

What are the causes of a painful clitoris?

Many things can cause a painful clitoris. One of the most common is keratin pearls, which happens when your clitoris’ normal secretions turn into a hard, sand-like substance. These secretions help your clitoral hood (the piece of skin that surrounds your clitoris) move freely. Keratin pearls prevent this from happening, which can cause excess rubbing and friction to your clitoris.

Some of the other causes of clitoris pain are:

  • Sexual trauma: Injury to your vagina from sexual abuse or rough sex can cause clitoris pain.
  • Vaginal infection: Infections that affect your vagina such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), bacterial vaginosis (BV) or yeast infection.
  • Trauma to the area: Trauma to the area not caused by sex could include injuries from vaginal childbirth or surgery.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Many of the most common STIs could lead to clitoral pain.
  • Rashes or other skin conditions: Conditions like lichen sclerosus or lichen planus may cause clitoral pain.
  • Nerve compression: This happens when the nerves around your clitoris are held under tension or pulled tightly.
  • Skin irritation: Your clitoris can become easily irritated. Chemicals or scents found in soaps, lotions or personal hygiene products could irritate your external genitals.
  • Other health conditions: Certain medical conditions that affect your central nervous system may cause clitoris pain. Some examples are diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Vulvodynia is a similar condition that causes pain in your external genitals. Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with this condition if no cause can be found for clitoris pain.

Care and Treatment

How is clitoris pain diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider diagnoses clitoris pain with a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms. They will ask you questions about your pain, sexual health and medical history. During an examination of your vulvar area, they may ask you to rate your pain. They may take a sample of fluid from your vagina to test for infection. Often, a rash or changes to the skin around your clitoris is enough to diagnose a skin condition or infection.

How is clitoris pain treated?

Treatment for clitoris pain depends on the cause. Some of the treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection including certain STIs and some skin rashes.
  • Antifungals for yeast infections and certain rashes.
  • Physical therapy for your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Sex therapy and counseling.
  • Pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Antidepressants (medications for depression and anxiety) for nerve pain.
  • Anticonvulsants (medications that control seizures) for nerve pain.
  • Practicing gentler sex or applying a cold compress to the area after sex.

When to Call the Doctor

When should a healthcare provider treat clitoris pain?

Contact your healthcare provider if you have mild to moderate clitoris pain that doesn’t go away or disrupts your daily life. Your provider will examine your vulvar area and discuss your symptoms as well as possible causes of those symptoms.

Call your provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever lasting more than three days.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or vaginal bleeding (not related to menstruation).
  • Persistent and severe pain in your vagina or pelvic region.
  • Difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat or feeling dizzy.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Clitoris pain (or clitorodynia) can disrupt your daily life and make things like showering, sex or walking painful. If you have this condition, you may feel burning, itching or painful sensations in your vulvar area (external vaginal area). Most causes of a painful clitoris are highly treatable. The most common causes of clitoris pain are infection, injury and skin conditions. Your healthcare provider can diagnose clitoral pain during an exam and recommend the best treatment based on your symptoms.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/18/2022.

References

  • ACOG. Committee Opinion No. 673. Persistent vulvar pain. (https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2016/09/persistent-vulvar-pain) Accessed 7/18/2022.
  • International Society for Sexual Medicine. What is clitorodynia (clitoral pain)? (https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-clitorodynia-clitoral-pain/) Accessed 7/18/2022.
  • Parada M, D'Amours T, Amsel R, et al. Clitorodynia: A Descriptive Study of Clitoral Pain. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26104318/) J Sex Med. 2015 Aug;12(8):1772-80. Accessed 7/18/2022.
  • Planned Parenthood. Where is the clitoris? (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/ask-experts/where-is-the-clitoris) Accessed 7/18/2022.
  • Vasileva P, Strashilov SA, Yordanov AD. Aetiology, diagnosis, and clinical management of vulvodynia. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7258372/) Prz Menopauzalny (Menopause Review). 2020 Mar;19(1):44-48. Accessed 7/18/2022.

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