Could Wii Injury Really Lead to Sexual Arousal Syndrome?
Headlines today are discussing the story of Amanda Flowers, a 24 year old British woman who claims to have suffered nerve damage leading to a condition called persistent sexual arousal syndrome after falling off of a Nintendo Wii Fit Balance Board. While the news originated in what is considered a UK “tabloid”, it does lead some to wonder if such an injury could occur.
Persistent sexual arousal syndrome (PSAS) is also called Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD), Restless Genital Syndrome, or Mempin Syndrome. Some physicians prefer to use the term priaprism, which is better known in men as a side effect of the drug Viagra. PSAS is a spontaneous, involuntary genital arousal, however, it is completely unrelated to hypersexuality or nymphomania. It is not always accompanied by an orgasm or feelings of sexual desire. The feeling of arousal may persist for hours, days, or even months.
The condition was first documented by Dr. Sandra Leiblum in 2001, but only recently characterized as a distinct syndrome in medical literature. The condition is very rare, but many may not be diagnosed because of the feelings of shame and discomfort that it causes women. PSAS is distinguished from other sexual conditions by the following features:
• The physiological responses characteristic of sexual arousal (genital and breast vasocongestion and sensitivity) persist for an extended period (hours to days), and do not subside completely on their own.
• The signs of physiologic arousal do not resolve with ordinary orgasmic experience, and may require multiple orgasms over hours or days to remit.
• These physiologic signs of arousal are usually experienced as unrelated to any subjective sense of sexual excitement or desire.
• The persistent sexual arousal may be triggered not only by sexual activity, but also by seemingly nonsexual stimuli or no apparent stimulus at all.
• The physiologic signs of persistent arousal are experienced as uninvited, intrusive, and unwanted.
The condition can occur at any age, but appears to be most common in postmenopausal women in their 40s or 50s.
The exact cause of the condition remains unknown. Nerve damage, particularly of the pudendal nerve that originates in the sacral region of the spinal cord and connects to the external genitalia of both men and women, or medication side effects (trazodone) are two of the theories. The trigger may also be psychological in nature, such as the dysfunction of a neurotransmitter in the brain. A Dutch study from the Utrecht University and The Hague’s HagaHospital linked PSAS with Restless Legs Syndrome. A 2005 report from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center-Surgery, Division of Gynecology in New York even linked PSAS to excessive soy intake.
Treatment may include medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs and psychotherapy. Surgery on the affected nerve or correction of an arterial-venous malformation in the pelvic arterial branches may be appropriate, as seen on a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy. There is no cure. Women often find temporary relief from masturbation or sexual contact with a partner or through the use of deep breathing techniques or ice packs.
More on PSAS can be learned by hearing the personal experience of four women, documented on ABC News Primetime.