Clitoromegaly is a medical term that is used to describe a clitoris that is larger than what is typically considered normal. The clitoris is a female sexual organ that is similar in nature to the male penis. In fact, when this condition is present, the clitoris may strongly resemble a small penis. A medical condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia is the most common cause of this condition, especially if clitoromegaly is present at birth. Other potential causes include Fraser syndrome, endocrine disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or steroid usage.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is the most typical cause of clitoromegaly. This is a medical condition that occurs when the affected person is born without a specific enzyme that is responsible for some of the hormone production in the body. This often leads to an enlarged clitoris in girls, although the labia may also resemble the scrotum of a male in some cases. Treatment typically involves the use of hormone therapy as well as steroids, although the potential risks of steroid therapy should be discussed with a doctor.
Fraser syndrome is another medical condition that may cause clitoromegaly. This is a very rare condition that may lead to a variety of deformities, primarily affecting the eyes. Fraser syndrome is an autosomal recessive disorder, meaning that both parents must carry a copy of the defective gene in order to have a child who is born with this condition. Unfortunately, the exact gene that leads to the condition has not yet been isolated as of 2011.
Endocrine or hormonal abnormalities such as polycystic ovarian syndrome may occasionally lead to the development of clitoromegaly. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also referred to as PCOS, is a relatively common disorder in which the affected woman's hormone levels become out of balance. In addition to the possibility of clitoral enlargement, symptoms may include weight gain, abdominal pain, and menstrual irregularities. Treatment for PCOS can range from dietary changes to the use of prescription medications such as hormone replacement therapy. In some cases, surgical intervention may become necessary, especially if symptoms become severe.
The use of anabolic steroids is known to sometimes cause clitoromegaly. This primarily occurs in transsexuals who are transitioning from female to male. Unlike other causes of this condition, enlargement of the clitoris is typically a desired result of hormone therapy as part of the transgender process. As is the case with any medical condition, any questions or concerns should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
Clitoromegaly can occur in both adults and children. The causes of it vary depending on the situation and age.
Causes of Clitoromegaly in Adults
The most common cause of an enlarged clitoris in adults is sexual arousal. When a person becomes sexually excited, the clitoris undergoes a similar process as the penis. Blood flows to the area and makes the clitoris appear larger. After orgasm, blood flow returns to normal and the clitoris shrinks again. However, if orgasm does not happen, the clitoris may appear larger for hours or even days, which may cause some irritation and discomfort.
Sometimes, the clitoris becomes enlarged due to inflammation in the vulva. Vulvitis may occur due to excessive friction during sex, due to an STI or yeast infection, or because of an allergic reaction to a soap, laundry detergent, or similar product. Overstimulation of the clitoral area, even if that stimulation is not pleasant, can cause swelling of the clitoris. If you suspect that you are allergic to a product you're using, discontinue use to see if the problem subsides. If you think that you may have an infection, talk to your doctor about treatment.
Hormone disorders are another common reason for clitoromegaly in adults. Adults have both estrogens and androgens in their bodies, but when the androgen is in excess, someone with a clitoris may notice enlargement. There are several ways this happens.
- Anabolic Steroids – Anabolic steroids are used to boost athletic performance and build muscle, but they can also lead to too many androgens in the body. In addition to an enlarged clitoris, steroids may also cause a deeper voice or serious health issues that affect the internal organs.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – When many small cysts are on the ovaries, it may cause more androgens in the body and lead to an enlarged clitoris. Other symptoms of PCOS include excess body hair, acne, irregular menstruation, weight gain, and trouble getting pregnant.
- Tumors or Growths – Tumors on the adrenal glands are a common cause of clitoromegaly. Other hormone-related symptoms of a tumor include weight gain, excessive hair, and changes in menstruation.
Clitoromegaly in Children
There are several causes of clitoromegaly in children as well, all of which must be diagnosed by a medical professional.
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – A disorder of the adrenal glands, congenital adrenal hyperplasia can cause a child to produce too much androgen, causing the clitoris to swell. This is a type of intersexuality and it may be difficult to tell whether a young child has male or female genitals.
- Growths – Sometimes, children have growths that cause the clitoris to look larger than is typical. Some possible growths include lympho-angiofibromas, epidermoid cysts, or fibroma. All of these are noncancerous and may be treated by a doctor.
- Sexual Development Disorders – Other sexual development disorders are also common causes of clitoromegaly. These symptoms may present themselves as early as birth and must be diagnosed by a doctor.
First, it's important to understand when to see a doctor about an enlarged clitoris. Some situations, such as prolonged sexual arousal, do not require medical intervention unless it becomes painful or lasts longer than 48 hours. In other cases, additional symptoms mean you should seek medical care. If the clitoris feels hot, it may be a symptom of infection. Other situations that require medical intervention include unusual vaginal discharge, pain during urination, bleeding, itching, or blisters on the genitals.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Depending on the cause of your clitoromegaly, you may not need any surgical treatment. If you're having an allergic reaction, stop using the products or clothing that you think might be causing the reaction. Over-the-counter cortisone cream can relieve itching and irritation symptoms until you feel better.
Infections can be more serious and may require the help of a medical professional. Depending on the type of infection, you may need to take a course of antibiotics to start feeling better. Your doctor may also provide a topical estrogen cream or another medication to help relieve symptoms.
If you have an endocrine disorder such as PCOS, your doctor will likely prescribe medication for you. Hormone therapy medications may ease the other symptoms of hormone disorders as well as reduce the size of the clitoris.
Is your enlarged clitoris the symptom of an ovarian tumor or another growth? Depending on the seriousness of the situation, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or surgery such as a clitoroplasty. A clitoroplasty can reduce the size of the clitoris and ease symptoms related to clitoromegaly.