A WIDOW says her "life has been wrecked" as a result of nerve damage caused by a botched smear test which means simple activities such driving over a pothole or using an escalator can trigger embarrassing orgasms.

Maria, 61, from East Dunbartonshire has been struggling for nearly two years to find any effective treatment for the rare condition, known as Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder.

The mother-of-three says she cannot even speak to her adult children about the problem, and asked that only her first name is used.

However, she said she wants to make clear how debilitating the disorder is and let other sufferers "know they're not freaks".

"People shouldn't have to go through this and be ridiculed," she said. "It's far from funny. This has broken up marriages. Some women have taken their own lives.

"It saps your confidence because, to be honest, there are days I wish I wasn't here."

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Her ordeal began soon after she attended Glasgow's Stobhill Hospital for a routine gynaecological examination in September 2017.

The consultant obstetrician - now retired - arrived late due to a flat tyre, and Maria said she appeared distracted.

"She wasn't focused. At one point she even said 'my head's still on my puncture'. Then all of a sudden she rammed this speculum into me," said Maria. "I just gasped - so much so that the nurse was holding me and saying 'keep breathing'."

Afterwards, Maria's genitals became painfully swollen and in October she began experiencing distressing symptoms for the first time which would eventually be diagnosed as PGAD, caused by damage to her pudendal nerve.

"I just didn't know what was happening. You've got this great arousal but it's not going anywhere or triggered by anything.

"Most of the time I feel like I am sitting on an ant's nest.

"There's times where it's a tickle all day, but then there are times when something sets it off and it's a full-blown orgasm.

"Driving over potholes, aircraft turbulence, escalators, the vibration from violins - I don't know how many women could say they went to a Shania Twain concert and she made them orgasm.

"Ninety per cent of my life has been wrecked and the other 10% is not so great either. I had to give up volunteering because just moving can set it off. One of my friends said to me I'd become a recluse."

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She has been prescribed numbing gels, pelvic floor physiotherapy and excruciating steroid injections direct into her clitoris, but the effects often wear off within hours - if they work at all.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde even referred her to a psychologist to rule a mental cause.

More recently her gynaecologist has suggested trying Botox, which can relieve symptoms in some patients, but it carries the risk of causing bladder and bowel incontinence when injected around the pubic area.

Maria said: "To think that this damage was caused by a consultant's incompetence and then you have incontinence as a result of things you do to try to cure the damage is just ludicrous. It's shocking."

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As the chair of a Glasgow reproductive charity in the 1990s Maria helped raise more than £250,000 to fund medical research into female and infant health, and stresses she does not want to scare women out of attending smears.

She also praises the hard work and compassion of her GP, gynaecologist and physiotherapist who "have gone above and beyond - they've never given up on me".

However, she feels "left to suffer" by the health board who deny that the damage to her pudendal nerve was caused by the smear test and have turned down repeated requests from Maria, and her MP Jo Swinson, to be referred to an expert abroad.

Although Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, in a letter to Ms Swinson, made clear that health boards "can commission treatment in other parts of the UK, Europe or indeed the rest of the world on an ad hoc basis, particularly where highly specialised treatment is involved", the health board have told Ms Swinson they "would not refer patient outwith the UK for treatment".

Scotland has no specialists in PGAD, but Maria secured a private appointment for June with Dutch expert Dr Marcel Waldinger, at a cost to herself of €200 an hour.

In a further blow, however, Dr Waldinger suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack in May.

"I was devastated," said Maria. "He was my best hope."

Finally, on July 5, NHS GGC u-turned and told Ms Swinson they would refer Maria to St Mary's Hospital in London for treatment by Dr David Goldmeier, an expert in orgasmic disorder and persistent genital arousal.

Maria is still waiting for an appointment to be confirmed.

"No woman should have to fight a battle like that for nearly two years," she said.

Ms Swinson said: "I am delighted that NHS GGC has finally agreed to refer my constituent to a consultant in London with expertise in this area.

"It’s disappointing that it has taken so long for the health board to acknowledge that they are not able to offer effective treatment themselves.

"However, I am glad to see that things are moving in a positive direction and I hope that this helps to identify a successful treatment plan for Maria."

A spokeswoman for NHS GGC said: "We have explored and exhausted all treatments available locally for this patient and have been unable to relieve their symptoms.

"Therefore, we have offered to refer them to a specialist consultant in London."