Sore, itchy, spotty or lumpy clitoris? Most clitoral concerns are not serious, but if something feels amiss or if you are experiencing clitoris pain, it can still be alarming, especially given the lack of information available about this vital organ.
We speak to Emma Soos, managing director and urology nurse at The Women’s Health Clinic about where they are, what they do, and when to worry about your clitoris:
What is a clitoris?
The clitoris forms part of the female genitals at the anterior end of the vulva, and every woman’s clitoris is different. ‘There is no standard size, we all differ,’ explains Soos.
‘The most common clitoris problem is women trying to find it,’ she adds. ‘Women often ask where it is, what it should do and what it looks like.’
What is a ‘normal’ clitoris?
There is a huge misconception around women’s bodies and how they should look. With this in mind, it’s important to get to know your own body intimately, so you will be aware when something is amiss.
‘Though we all differ physically, we do all have a clitoris and yet many women have never looked at themselves down there so don’t know it looks like,’ explains Soos.
‘Due to some fantastic campaigns we have thankfully all become breast aware and as a result women regularly examine their breasts.
‘However, who can say they do the same for the rest of their body? Women should examine themselves “down there” and become familiar with changes, what is normal and more importantly, what is not.’
Common clitoris problems
The most common clitoral health concerns include the following, as outlined by Soos:
• Clitoral piercings that have gone wrong – any piercing should be untaken by a trained specialist, especially if women wish to pierce their genitals.
• People damaging their clitoris by trying too hard to stimulate it. For example, women who tend to use vibrators a lot can desensitise it.
• Female genital mutilation (FGM) – it varies but can include the removal of the clitoris hood or even the entire clitoris, but any modification which is not necessary can fall under the remit of FGM – even piercings.
Other common clitoris concerns include the following:
1/ Sore clitoris
A sore clitoris is quite common. ‘It means it has been irritated by either too much stimulation, rough stimulation or simply wearing too tight clothing or perhaps even a change of washing powder,’ says Soos. ‘Any external pressure that is too much can end up making a clitoris sore.’
The medical term for clitoris pain is clitorodynia. While not much is known about this, it has been linked with lichen sclerosus or multiple sclerosis. Clitoris pain has also been associated with trauma to the clitoris, such as surgery and vaginal childbirth.
Clitoris pain may make activities such as walking, exercise or sexual activity more difficult. Some women find applying a heating or cooling pad may help to relieve clitoris pain. However, like any kind of genital pain, if you are concerned, you should talk to your doctor.
2/ Swollen clitoris
It is also incredibly common to occasionally be uncomfortable or swollen in the clitoral area. ‘The clitoral hood can be retracted slightly by a trauma or heavy handedness which can in turn cause swelling and discomfort,’ explains Soos. ‘If it persists it could be infected so medical advice should be sought from either a GP, a nurse or a specialist female health practitioner.’
‘The number one questions we get asked in clinic is: “Am I normal?” Everyone should be familiar with their bodies and know what is not normal,’ adds Soos. ‘Women’s bodies change with their cycle and age. For example during the fertile days of the month, some women experience a slightly swollen clitoris.’
3/ Bruised or bleeding clitoris
Always use common sense if you are concerned. ‘If the bruising does not go down or the bleeding does not stop in 24-hours you need to seek medical advice,’ advises Soos.
‘In a nutshell something has happened and to be honest, you will probably know what it is. To reduce swelling you can always try wrapping ice in a cloth and applying to the area but it won’t be comfortable.’
‘If your clitoris hurts, again, it means you have overdone it or perhaps you have got your vibrator on too high a setting,’ she adds.
4/ Itchy clitoris
Your genitals can become itchy for a number of reasons. ‘You might have thrush or possibly a reaction to your partner or to condoms,’ says Soos.
‘If you think it is caused by the condoms, try latex-free versions with a perfume-free lubricant,’ she adds. ‘Though rare, some women react to the materials in vibrators but in any case, if it persists, seek the advice of a medical professional.’
5/ Lumpy clitoris
Found an unfamiliar lump? ‘In essence the clitoris is a lump,’ says Soos. ‘Anything abnormal should be checked out but before doing so; it is good to be familiar with what is normal.’
If you find a new lump, hotfoot it to your GP or sexual health clinic as soon as possible to get it checked out. ‘If you are experiencing pain, bleeding, itching or anything abnormal and persistent, ideally you see a female GP or ask to see your nurse,’ advises Soos. ‘Otherwise a female health specialist and clinician will be able to help.’
Get to know your vagina
Educating yourself on the dynamics of your genitalia is essential explains Soos, as it’s important to know what is normal so you will know when you need to seek advice – and often the education we receive at school is inadequate.
‘At The Women’s Health Clinic, we surveyed our clients and found that although 87 per cent went through sexual education at school, the majority agree that better awareness of general female health complaints, common problems with fertility, childbirth and the menopause would have greatly benefited their education,’ says Soos.
Sexual health resources
If you are worried about your clitoris or have any other sexual health concerns, visit your GP or get a confidential opinion from your local sexual health clinic. Don’t be embarrassed, they are trained specialists who are used to dealing with sexual health concerns.
To visit a sexual health clinic you don’t need a referral letter from your GP, but we recommend contacting the clinic to find out their opening hours, and to check if you need an appointment.
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