What causes the loss of sensation in the first place?
When women experience loss of clitoral sensation, it can be very distressing and scary, especially if there's no physical reason for the loss of sensation, such as damage from an accident or an injury. However, the truth is that it's common to experience loss of clitoral sensation and the medical name for this loss of sensation is clitoral atrophy or vaginal atrophy, depending on where the loss of sensation occurs.
Clitoral atrophy, the medical term for a reduction in clitoral sensation, affects between 30 and 50 percent of women over the age of 30 (Azadzoi & Siroky, 2010), and many have trouble finding effective ways to treat this condition. This article will help to answer your questions about clitoral stimulation.
Clitoral Atrophy – What you need to know
If you're experiencing a decrease in clitoral sensation, you are not alone. A recent study shows that at least 18 percent of women experience some degree of loss in sexual sensation on their genitals after menopause. The clitoris is one of several areas in women's bodies affected by menopause (2010). In addition, this area, which is externally located near and around a woman's vaginal opening, can be affected by hormonal changes due to menopause. In some cases, women may experience itching or burning in and around their vaginas.
While these symptoms could easily be connected to a yeast infection, they may also be caused by other issues. For example, an accumulation of white tissue surrounding an area called your urethra could be a sign that you have atrophy surrounding your clitoris. You may hear doctors refer to atrophy as an issue with a particular part of your body. When they say that you have atrophied, it means that there has been a gradual wasting away (or reduction) of something such as muscle tissue, nerve cells; bones; organs, or skin. In terms of your vagina, atrophy refers to shrinkage (or wasting away) of specific cells and tissues associated with reproductive functions within your body (Bachmann & Nevadunsky, 2000).
Symptoms of Clitoral Atrophy
Symptoms of atrophic vaginitis include intense itching, soreness, burning, and a prickly sensation around or near the clitoris. Though atrophic vaginitis (Bachmann & Nevadunsky, 2000) can occur independently, it is often a side effect of menopause or surgery. In addition, the change in estrogen levels and lack of lubrication makes women susceptible to over-dryness (Maayah, 2021) and irritation, which can cause pain and lead to infection if left untreated. Because symptoms are similar to other common conditions like bacterial vaginosis, there are medical tests that your doctor can run to confirm that you have atrophic vaginitis.
Those who undergo labiaplasty may experience chronic dryness and numbness as a result of nerve damage during surgery. Surgery should only be done when medically necessary, but with advances in surgical techniques, some patients find relief from their atrophic vaginitis after undergoing labiaplasty. There are several treatments for vaginal atrophy depending on whether it's caused by menopause or an underlying medical condition such as diabetes; for more severe cases, your doctor might recommend hormone therapy. Vaginal estrogen cream has been shown to improve dryness and reduce discomfort associated with decreased vaginal lubrication during sex.
Diagnosing Clitoral Atrophy
After ruling out medical causes for loss of clitoral sensation, your doctor will likely perform a clitoral stimulator test. This test is used to see if your nervous system and reflexes are working correctly. To do so, they will place their gloved or lubricated finger on your clitoris. You should feel when they touch you, but it shouldn't be painful or uncomfortable. If you can't feel anything, it could mean you have damaged nerves in your pelvic area. Your healthcare provider may also use imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan to look at other problems with your nervous system.
Now that we understand what causes genital numbness in women let's talk about how it's treated. As we've established, low libido isn't always related to nerve damage caused by surgery or cancer treatments—but it can also be connected.
Treatments for Clitoral Atrophy
For women having difficulty achieving orgasm, clitoral stimulation may seem like an obvious solution. However, it is essential to remember that clitoral sensation and arousal can become difficult for many reasons. That being said, treating a woman's loss of clitoral sensation does not necessarily mean stimulating it more. For example, a woman who has lost sensitivity in her genitals due to vaginal atrophy may be able to achieve more pleasure from massaging her labia and G-spot.
Some medical conditions—such as diabetes or high blood pressure—can impact clitoral sensation; those issues should be treated first (Vaginal atrophy, 2021). More often than not, though, clit atrophy causes have less to do with physical health than they do with habits and self-image. So, to get back on track quickly, take some time out to reflect on your body image and behaviors; you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself!
Ways to Stimulate
This is where things can get a little tricky. When women lose clitoral sensation, there are plenty of ways to compensate for it. For example, if you're struggling with the loss of sensation but have no desire to go on estrogen, there are non-hormonal options that can help boost your arousal and pleasure levels. A doctor might suggest a vaginal lubricant or a clitoral stimulator like a vibrator. If you need more encouragement, don't be afraid to experiment! It can take trial and error before you find what works best for you. Women who regain sensation after the initial loss are more likely to discover it through sexual play than medical intervention.
Now is certainly not a time to give up hope—especially if you have found an effective treatment. To increase your chance of getting (and keeping) more feeling back, make sure to engage all your senses during sex, try different positions and attempt multiple orgasms—there's nothing quite like them. And remember, nobody has to know about any of these tips but you.
Azadzoi, K. M., & Siroky, M. B. (2010). Neurologic factors in female sexual function and dysfunction. Korean journal of urology, 51(7), 443–449. https://doi.org/10.4111/kju.2010.51.7.443
Bachmann, G. A., & Nevadunsky, N. S. (2000, May 15). Diagnosis and treatment of atrophic vaginitis. American Family Physician. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0515/p3090.html
Maayah, S. (2021). Clitoris Changes with Age. Sutter Health. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.sutterhealth.org/ask-an-expert/answers/clitoris-changes-with-age. Ask an expert, Dr. Susan Maayah, answers "Does the clitoris disappear with age? After 70?" (2021). Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Mills-Peninsula Physician HMO Network.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, September 17). Vaginal atrophy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288