Physician's Weekly
November 25, 2022
Demystifying the Clitoris

Q: What is the purpose of the clitoris? Are there conditions that can affect it?

Planned Parenthood cogently enunciates, “The clitoris is a pretty awesome organ. It doesn’t have a central role in reproduction like the penis or vagina — it’s basically just there to make you feel good!”

Locating the clitoris is challenging for many, including women and by extension, it’s often described as “the most elusive part of the female anatomy”.

Why is it traditionally taboo to talk about the clitoris?

The clitoris remains an area of the body that’s often off-limits for discussion. It is postulated that the clitoris is shrouded in secrecy in many cultures because any chat about this organ of sexual pleasure would inevitably lead to a discussion about sex for enjoyment. A conversation that many parents, guardians, and school sex educators would rather steer clear of.

Why the name clitoris?

According to Scientific American, clitoris comes from the ancient Greek word kleitoris. When translated means both “little hill” and “to rub”.

Location

The glans clitoris varies from pea-to-thumb-size and is located under a hood in the midline where the inner labia meet, directly above the urethral opening (the hole where pee comes out). The glans clitoris, the external part of a wishbone-shaped organ, represents approximately 10% of the entire clitoris.

Clitoral tissue

The clitoris is made up of an intricate network of erectile tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. It can swell up to three times its normal size when aroused. It’s similar to tissue found in the penis. The clitoral tissue is ageless and grows throughout life. An 80-year-old’s clitoris works the same as a 20-year-old’s. Additionally, at 90 it can be up to 2.5 times bigger than a teenager’s.

Why is it so exquisitely sensitive?

The clitoris has the highest concentration of sensory nerve endings in the human body. Researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University, in a landmark paper released in October 2022 reported on average, a human clitoris contains 10,281 nerve fibers.

Function

The clitoris enables you to maximize your sexual pleasure. Scientific research has shown that 81% of women would only reach orgasm if the clitoris is directly stimulated. A “vaginal orgasm” is considered a misnomer by experts. An orgasm as a result of penetrative vaginal sex is primarily achieved by stimulation of the concealed clitoral tissue found in the anterior (front) and lateral (side) walls of the vagina.

Medical Conditions which can affect a clitoris

  • Clitoromegaly – This is clitoral enlargement that is unrelated to sexual stimulation. Causes include PCOS, hormonal disorders, ovarian tumours, infections, medications, and primary and secondary tumours of the clitoris.
  • Sexually transmitted infections – The clitoris can be infected with a range of STIs, Herpes I & II, transmitted primarily by oral sex are challenging because they’re recurrent.
  • Dermatological – Clitoral adhesions occur when the clitoral hood adheres to the glans clitoris. This results in pain when the clitoris becomes engorged at the time of sexual arousal. Lichen sclerosus, found primarily in postmenopausal women, can affect the clitoris.

Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale, www.familycaresvg.com, [email protected], 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.