Meet the Urologist Taking Sexual Dysfunction to TikTok
In October of 2021, urologist Anika Ackerman, MD, did what a lot of people did during the pandemic: She created a TikTok account. Seven months later, she’s earned 138,000 followers. Wondering how a urology account attracted that much attention?
Ackerman is openly answering questions about sexual health—especially for women.
“I’m not an OB-GYN, but I can practice female health,” Ackerman told Verywell. “People think urologists only deal with men and prostates—I think that’s confusing for people.”
Ackerman spoke with Verywell about the questions she gets the most on TikTok, and how COVID-19 has impacted sexual health.
Verywell: What kinds of sexual health issues have you seen in tandem with the pandemic?
Ackerman: Because of the lockdown, I’ve seen patients with higher rates of mental illness, or lack of interest in sex that has led to erectile dysfunction (ED). Especially in younger people who normally wouldn’t have issues with erections, stress and mental illness can lead to erectile dysfunction. We call that psychogenic ED. For that, we normally recommend counseling and stress management, in addition to like low doses of medications, such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.
Verywell: Are there specific sexual health topics people seem to be looking for on TikTok?
Ackerman: People on TikTok just want to know about sex. We can try explaining other urology issues—we’ve posted videos about kidney stones and even some aesthetic medicine content. I do Botox fillers and all that stuff. But nothing hits as hard or goes as viral like the sexual topics. It’s mostly male and female sexual dysfunction.
Ackerman says her followers skew about 50% male, 50% female.
Female sexual dysfunction generates interest because it’s a little bit of a taboo subject. A lot of people don’t talk about it. A lot of people don’t know about it. I get tons of questions like, “Oh, my God, I don’t know anything about this. Where do I go for this?” There are not a lot of providers well-versed in sexual dysfunction for females. It’s a relatively new field.
As a provider, if you’re interested treating sexual health, you have to seek it out yourself. Otherwise, you’re not going to be taught anything about any relevant procedures, or things like off-label usage of testosterone for women.
We do have technology that we’re using, specifically at our medical facility, that’s not available nationwide. I have been up and down the east coast to do some of these procedures, like the O-shot.
The O-shot uses plasma-rich platelet (PRP) therapy in an attempt to improve orgasms. Physicians take plasma from a patient’s blood and inject it into areas including the labia and clitoris. More research is needed to establish whether PRP offers any real benefits for gynecological health.
We receive lots of followup questions on TikToks about female sexual dysfunction. For example, we’ll often post about the MonaLisa Touch procedure, which helps with vaginal rejuvenation. People will ask, “I see that the MonaLisa uses a laser; how does that actually help?”
Once we know what people are asking, we create followup videos to answer their questions. That’s what nice about the TikTok platform; people can ask you a question, and then you do a follow up video on it, which just leads to more views, more interaction, and more followers.
Verywell: What are some of the biggest barriers people face when trying to get help with their sexual health?
Ackerman: I think there’s three main barriers. One barrier is people not being willing to talk about their personal problems with doctors, or feeling embarrassed or afraid to share their experience. They may think they’re the only one suffering with issues like this.
But additionally, I think a lot of people just don’t know where to go. Like I was saying before, I get tons of comments that are like, “Wait, I didn’t even know this exists. What kind of doctor are you? What kind of doctor do I need to see?”
The last part is probably just fear that treatments are not covered by insurance—because a lot of them are not. There are probably some barriers monetarily. Not everyone can afford to buy supplements, hormones, or front the cost of a treatment that’s not FDA-approved. A lot of these female sexual health treatments are not covered by insurance and they can be costly. So that’s definitely fair.