Anatomy, Function, Care, and Conditions of the Clitoris

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 08, 2022
4 min read

The clitoris is the sensitive area located on the top of your vulva. Touching this area of your body can make you feel sexually aroused and lead to climax, or an orgasm. On the outside, it looks like a small button-like area of flesh. But your clitoris is actually a much larger network of tissues and nerves inside and outside of your body.

The single purpose of your clitoris is to give you sexual pleasure. While your entire vulva can be sexually stimulated, your clitoris gives you the most intense sensations.

Your clitoris can be stimulated in many ways. Each person may prefer different types of touch. You can feel pleasure with:

  • Your or your partner's fingers
  • Stimulation from oral sex
  • A sex toy
  • Your partner's genitals

Vaginal penetration with a penis, fingers, or a sex toy can also stimulate your clitoris through your vaginal wall.

You can explore what you like and dislike on your own or with your partner. This will help you learn and understand what you enjoy during sex.

Your clitoris is made of regular tissue, connective tissue, and muscle. It's covered with a clitoral hood that's formed from the upper part of your labia. It may look different on each person. But usually, you'll see a tiny area of flesh under a hood that's located in between two flaps of skin.

On the outside of your body, a small part of your clitoris, called the glans clitoris, extends out at the top of your vulva. Under that is your urethral opening (the hole you pee from). Under that is your vaginal opening. The two flaps of skin around your clitoris and vaginal opening are called the labia minora and labia majora.

The glans clitoris is full of nerve endings that make it extra sensitive. Your clitoral hood might cover all, some, or none of your glans clitoris.

On the inside of your body, your clitoris looks like an upside-down Y. The body of your clitoris, or the corpora, is behind your glans. This forms the single part of the Y. This extends down and branches off to the smaller two legs of the Y, called the crura. The crura are the two longest parts of your clitoris.

Then you have your vestibular (clitoral) bulbs. These are between your crura and vaginal wall. They come in a pair and swell with blood when you become aroused. When this happens, they can double in size.

The root of your clitoris refers to the area where the nerves from other areas in your clitoris meet up. The root is at the area where the legs of the crura meet.

Just a few inches inside your vagina, there's an area called the G-spot, or the Grafenberg spot. Experts still aren't exactly sure how this related to the clitoris. But it can also create pleasure if it's stimulated.

You may feel pleasure around this area because it's where the vestibular bulbs of your clitoris rub up against the vaginal wall. This may be the reason why vaginal orgasms are related to the clitoris.

Your entire clitoris is about 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 inches long. It's usually about 2 1/2 inches wide. The glans, on the outside of your body, is only about 3/4 to an inch in diameter.

Your whole clitoris is created from a network of erectile tissue, similar to the tissue in a penis, and nerves. The glans alone has about 8,000 nerve endings. When you're aroused, parts of your clitoris swell with blood. This can cause your labia to become swollen as well.

When this happens, the swelling causes pressure on your vaginal walls. This leads to lubrication inside of your vagina and allows you to feel more pleasure, especially during vaginal penetration.

There are certain conditions that can affect your clitoris. They include:

Clitoromegaly. This happens when your clitoris is larger than normal. You may have this if you were exposed to too many androgens (sex hormones like testosterone) while you were a fetus. This can lead to congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). This is when your clitoris looks like a small penis.

Hormone-related conditions. Other issues related to a hormone imbalance, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can also cause a large clitoris.

Infections. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes can affect your vulva. Because of this, they can irritate your clitoris too.

Skin conditions. Clitoral adhesions happen when your clitoral hood sticks to your clitoris. This can cause painful side effects. Lichen sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that can lead to scarring on your vulva and your clitoris. This condition can lead to clitoral adhesions.

You can also have allergies to things like

  • Condoms
  • Sex toys
  • Soaps, especially those with strong smells
  • Feminine hygiene products such as deodorant sprays or douches
  • Laundry detergent residue

Cancers.Vulvar cancer and metastatic cancers (like breast, cervical, and endometrial cancer) can all affect your clitoris.

Harsh sexual stimulation can also lead to pain in this area.

If you notice soreness, itching, or pain on your clitoris, it might be a good idea to check for any underlying issues.

You can keep your clitoris healthy by keeping your genital area clean with warm water and mild soap. Stay away from perfumed sprays and deodorants. Don't douche unless your doctor advises you to.

Be sure to get a regular pelvic exam. These checkups help your doctor find any conditions that may affect the health of your clitoris. The earlier they find any issues, the easier it'll be to treat them.

You should also:

  • Use condoms or dental dams during sex to protect from infections.
  • Get tested for STDs so you can treat them.