Hydrocele: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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Hydrocele refers to a type of swelling that occurs in the scrotum. It happens when fluid collects in the sheath that surrounds the testicles. While the condition is quite common among new born babies, it usually disappears by the time the baby turns 1. In new born babies, there is generally no need of hydrocele treatment, as the swelling goes down on its own. Boys who are older, and even adults, may suffer from hydrocele due to scrotum injury or inflammation.

While hydrocele symptoms are generally painless and not considered to be very harmful, if you do notice any swelling, it might be better if you schedule an appointment with your doctor to be able to rule out any other causes for the same.

Hydrocele Symptoms

Generally, the only visible hydrocele symptom is a painless swelling that may affect either or both testicles. When this condition occurs in adults, they might experience some discomfort because of the swelling and the pain may increase with the inflammation.

If at any time you notice hydrocele symptoms, you need to rule out other possible causes of swelling. While babies do not require hydrocele treatment, and their swelling disappears with time, you need to pay attention if the swelling does not go down even after a year or if it increases. At this point, even your baby might require hydrocele treatment.

If you or your child suddenly develops scrotal pain or swelling, especially soon after suffering from a scrotum injury, you need immediate medical attention.

The Causes of Hydrocele

Hydrocele in Baby boys

The condition may develop before birth. Normally, testicles descend from the abdominal cavity into the scrotum in a developing baby. Once this happens, the sac that accompanies each testicle closes around them, and generally absorbs the fluid that surrounds the testicles. Sometimes, the fluid is not absorbed completely and remains in the sac even after it closes. This fluid is generally absorbed over the course of the first year.

Hydrocele in Older Males

Injury or inflammation within the scrotum may also lead to hydrocele in older men. This inflammation can also be caused by an infection that affects the testicle or the epididymitis, which is the coiled tube at the back of the testicle.

Risk Factors of Hydrocele

Most occurrences of hydrocele take place at the time of birth. In fact, premature babies have a higher risk of having the condition. In adults however, there are some risk factors that can contribute to the chance of them developing hydrocele:

  • Injury or inflammation within the scrotum
  • Infection, which also may include Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Complications of the Condition

Typically, hydrocele is not a dangerous condition and does not have an effect on the person’s fertility, but the condition may be associated with some other underlying testicular issue, which may end up causing several complications:

  • Infection or tumour: Can reduce sperm function or count
  • Inguinal hernia: Can lead to life-threatening complications

Diagnosing Hydrocele

Diagnosis of hydrocele begins with a physical exam to check for tenderness in the swollen scrotum and by applying pressure to the abdomen and the scrotum to check for inguinal hernia. The physical exam also involves shining a light through the scrotum to see the liquid surrounding the testicles.

Follow up exams can include blood and urine tests to rule out an infection and an ultrasound to check for hernia, testicular tumour or other causes.

Hydrocele Treatment

In baby boys, there is no need of hydrocele treatment, as the condition normally disappears after a while. However, in other cases, it is important to get checked by a doctor as the swelling may be because of some other, more serious testicular condition. If it doesn’t get better on its own, hydrocele treatment might require you to undergo surgery.