The word orgasm can stop people on a dime. It grabs attention and is generally associated with a positive experience. But what happens when a person is on the edge of orgasm with little to no relief all day?
Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) is a disorder in which afflicted individuals complain of sudden and frequent genital arousal in the absence of desire. PGAD can be associated with chronic pelvic pain which afflicts 15 to 20 percent of women of reproductive age worldwide. The incidence of women with PGAD is unknown since most women don’t talk about it. There is a small percentage of men with PGAD. PGAD was first documented in 2001 and many practitioners are unaware of its existence making it frustrating for individuals to find the right support.
The individual may feel uncomfortable sensations in and around the genital tissues, including the clitoris, labia, vagina, perineum, and anus. The types of sensations can include wetness, itching, pressure, burning, pounding and these sensations can last hours, days, or even months. Other symptoms of PGAD may include flushed face and neck, abnormally high blood pressure, abnormally high heart rate, shallow, rapid breathing, muscle spasms throughout the body, blurred or spotty vision, pain in the genital area, and pins and needles sensation. Masturbation and orgasms offer little or no relief.
PGAD can occur with painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis (PBS/IC) and genital pain disorders such as vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulodynia, pudendal neuropathy, and even skin conditions such as lichen simplex and lichen sclerosis.
The causes of PGAD are unclear, but it may be associated with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. PGAD may also be due to compression of the nerves in the pelvic area, such as the pudendal, ilioinguinal, genitofemoral, or iliohypogastric nerves, which may increase sensitivity, trigger arousal, and cause sensations around the genitals.
Pelvic physical therapy can help to reduce the symptoms of PGAD. Treatments can include internal pelvic floor trigger point release and myofascial release to release tight pelvic floor muscles, which may be compressing nerves or constricting blood flow. Alternative therapies such as use of TENS have also been shown to help some individuals. Your pelvic physical therapist can also collaborate with a trained sex therapist in order to regain normal sexual function and quality of life.
PGAD should not be taken lightly; it can cause huge disruption in an individual’s personal life. Many women are wrongly labeled or shamed for their symptoms. Bringing more awareness to this condition and erasing the taboo and shame associated with it is important. Talk to our physical therapists to start getting help and treatment for this condition, to help manage your symptoms and restore some balance back into your life.
Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD): Symptoms, causes, and treatment. Adam Felman.Tue 9 May 2017. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249594.php. Accessed Nov 28, 2017.
What is Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder? http://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-persistent-genital-arousal-disorder-pgad. Accessed Nov 28, 2017.