Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder: Review of Pertinent Peripheral Nerves

Sex Med Rev. 2020 Apr;8(2):265-273. doi: 10.1016/j.sxmr.2019.10.001. Epub 2019 Nov 6.


Introduction: Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) is a condition that is still poorly understood. Etiologies reported for PGAD are vascular, neurological, pharmacological, and psychological. Determining the neurophysiological etiology of PGAD began with developing an understanding of the underlying biomechanics of the pudendal nerve and the female sexual response.

Aim: To summarize the anatomy, physiology, etiologies, diagnostics, and treatments of the pertinent peripheral nerves involved in the pathology of PGAD.

Methods: We performed a PubMed, Cochrane, Embase, Web of Science, and Google Scholar search for English-language articles in peer-reviewed journals with no predefined time period for inclusion. Terms included "humans"[All Fields] AND "persistent"[All Fields] AND/OR ("genitalia"[All Fields] OR "genital"[All Fields]) AND/OR "arousal"[All Fields] AND/OR ("disease"[All Fields] OR "disorder"[All Fields]) AND/OR "nerve"[All Fields]. The main outcomes of the papers were reviewed.

Main outcome measure: The main outcome measures were the anatomy and physiology, etiologies, history and physical examination, diagnostic imaging, and current evidence for the treatment of PGAD related to the peripheral nervous system.

Results: Most of the literature for PGAD originates from case studies. The diagnosis of PGAD itself is still a debated topic of discussion. More recent data published indicate that this disease affects males, as well.

Conclusion: Nerve entrapment may be a source of continuous arousal. Associated PGAD symptoms would depend on the segment of the nerve involved. Unwelcomed or unwanted arousal has been observed as the most common detrimental symptom. Pelvic 3-tesla magnetic resonance imaging is recommended in all patients with suspected nerve entrapment. Lumbosacral 3-tesla magnetic resonance imaging is recommended if a Tarlov cyst or a herniated intervertebral disc is suspected. If the peripheral nerve is the source of the pathology, surgical intervention may be curative. A multidisciplinary team approach consisting of a medical provider, pelvic floor physical therapist, and sex therapist has demonstrated benefits. There are currently no Food and Drug Administration-approved evidenced-based treatments for PGAD. Klifto KM, Dellon AL. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder: Review of Pertinent Peripheral Nerves. Sex Med Rev 2020;8:265-273.

Keywords: Arousal; Clitoris; Nerve; Nerve Compression Syndromes; Orgasm; Peripheral Nervous System; Pudendal Nerve; Sexual Behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genitalia / innervation
  • Humans
  • Peripheral Nerves*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Pudendal Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Pudendal Neuralgia / complications
  • Sexual Arousal*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / physiopathology