A hydrocele is an accumulation of fluid in a sac surrounding the testicle.
Most commonly experienced by newborns, it’s usually not painful and goes away on its own within the first year of life. In some cases, though, older adults may develop a hydrocele, usually due to inflammation or injury in the scrotum.
This type of hydrocele is said to have affected more than 19.4 million males in one study. This condition isn’t harmful on its own, but it’s recommended to see a doctor to rule out any other underlying causes.
Let’s learn more about this condition and how it affects male individuals.
Types of Hydrocele
There are two main types of scrotal swelling: communicating and non-communicating.
This type of hydrocele develops an opening in the inguinal canal referred to as a “communication” that penetrates the abdominal cavity, allowing abdominal fluid to pass into the scrotum. The scrotum of an affected individual will vary in size throughout the day. It may also appear swollen.
This type of hydrocele is found in newborns and usually goes away on its own. However, if it persists after 6 to 12 months, doctors may perform a surgical incision to the baby’s scrotum to remove the fluid that has accumulated in the testicles.
This type of hydrocele doesn’t have an opening in the inguinal canal, however, the sac that surrounds the testicle is still filled with fluid. The scrotum usually doesn’t fluctuate in size or does so in a very slow fashion since the fluid isn’t being replenished.
Non-communicating hydroceles are often caused by an injury or inflammation in the scrotum. They may also be present at birth. Surgery is typically needed to remove the hydrocele in these cases.
A health care provider will diagnose a hydrocele by performing a physical exam of the scrotum. They’ll also ask questions about the age, medical history, and general health of the affected individual. An imaging test like an ultrasound may also be ordered to rule out any other possible conditions such as testicular torsion, testicular cancer, or any other underlying testicular condition.
During the physical examination, the health care provider will look for any excess fluid in the sac surrounding the testicle. They may also check for any tenderness, redness, or warmth in the area. Doctors may use a procedure known as transillumination to shine light through the scrotum and determine a fluid’s presence. If there isn’t any, it could be a sign of cancer or other male health issues.
In cases where the hydrocele is large or doesn’t go away on its own, a doctor may proceed to recommend a personalized treatment plan for male health. Patients may also use this time to ask any questions or address any concerns they may have about the condition.
Symptoms of Hydrocele
The most prevalent symptom of a hydrocele is a swollen scrotum. This lump—which has been said to feel like a water-filled balloon—may not cause pain, however, some hydroceles may grow to a large size and cause discomfort. In some cases, the lump may also feel heavy.
Other symptoms include:
- A dull ache in the groin area
- A sense of heaviness in the scrotum
- Tenderness or pain in the scrotum
- Varying scrotum size depending on the time of day
Talk with a doctor to address the root cause of your medical condition.
Causes of Hydrocele
In baby males, testicles typically descend from the abdominal cavity and into the scrotum. During this process, some fluid surrounds the testicles and the opening is closed. The fluid eventually gets reabsorbed into the body.
However, hydrocele occurs when fluids fail to get reabsorbed and instead collect in the sac surrounding the testicle. In some cases, the inguinal canal doesn’t close at all, leading to the varying change in the size of the scrotum.
For older adults, hydrocele can occur when there’s an injury in the scrotum. It may also occur when there’s inflammation resulting from a sexually-transmitted infection in the testicle or the epididymitis, a small tube found behind the testes.
Risk Factors Associated with Hydrocele
Hydrocele isn’t known to be fatal nor does it affect a man’s fertility or urinary system. However, this condition may be associated with other underlying conditions that can pose a threat to one’s health.
Some common risk factors that can put you at further risk of developing hydrocele include:
- Infections in the abdomen, testicles, or epididymis
- Inflammation in the scrotum that gets worse over time
- Living in a warm climate
In addition, hydrocele can cause further complications that may negatively affect a man’s health. A tumor, for instance, may start to form and inhibit sperm production and function. An inguinal hernia may also develop, which can cause the intestines to bulge through the weakened abdominal wall.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of hydrocele or have been diagnosed with the condition.
Treatment for Hydrocele
The majority of cases of hydroceles go away on their own and don’t require treatment. For cases that don’t improve after six months to a year or are accompanied by severe pain, however, it may need immediate medical attention.
The most common form of treatment for swelling in the scrotum is surgery. The doctor may give you anesthesia before the treatment starts.
The doctor will make a small incision in the abdomen or scrotum, depending on where it’s located, and surgically remove the sac away from your body. This procedure will take only a day to complete. However, depending on the size, you may have to wear a drainage tube for a few days before you can fully recover.
Another fairly successful treatment plan (84% success rate in a single operation) is needle aspiration. This treatment utilizes a long needle that can drain the fluid in your scrotum.
Certain medications may also be prescribed to prevent fluid from flowing back into the scrotum. This option is recommended for people who are at high risk of complications with traditional treatment.
Contact a Leading Men’s Health Facility for Guidance about Male Health Issues Like Hydrocele
Hydrocele is a condition that causes fluid to build up around the testicles. While a fluid-filled sac can go away on its own, surgery may be necessary for more moderate to severe cases.
If you’re experiencing painful scrotal swelling or scrotal pain in any form, contact the male health specialists at Cincinnati’s Proactive Men’s Medical Center now to schedule an appointment to have a consultation with their experienced and specially trained medical staff. We are one of Ohio’’s leading men’s clinics providing ED therapy, PE therapy, Acoustic Wave therapy, hormone therapy, and much more.