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J Sex Med. 2012 Aug;9(8):2047-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02765.x. Epub 2012 May 17.

Prevalence of sacral spinal (Tarlov) cysts in persistent genital arousal disorder.

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Department of Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.



Neither consistent etiology nor treatment have been established for Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD), which is characterized by uninvited, unwelcome, and distressing genital sensation. Sacral (Tarlov) cysts, which form on dorsal (sensory) roots, most commonly of S2 and S3 in the sacral spine, are reported to produce genital symptoms that bear similarities to those described for PGAD.


The present study ascertained the incidence of Tarlov cysts in the sacral spine of women with PGAD symptoms.


Women in a PGAD internet support group were asked to submit MRIs of their sacral region to the investigators, who evaluated the MRIs for the presence or absence of Tarlov cysts.


The presence or absence of Tarlov cysts at the level of the sacral spine.


Tarlov cysts were present in 12 of the first 18 (66.7%) MRIs submitted to the investigators by women who suffer from PGAD symptoms. By contrast to this incidence, that of Tarlov cysts reported in the literature for large samples of the population observed for various disorders (e.g., lumbosacral pain) is 1.2-9.0%.


Tarlov cysts have been described in the literature as producing paresthesias and genital sensory disturbances. Hence, at least some cases of PGAD might be considered to be a Tarlov cyst-induced paresthesia. Based on the relatively high occurrence of Tarlov cysts currently observed in women who suffer from PGAD symptoms, it would seem advisable to suspect Tarlov cysts as a possible organic etiological factor underlying PGAD.

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