Why is your scrotum swollen?
One evening when drying yourself after getting out of the shower, you notice that one side of your scrotum is swollen. It doesn’t hurt, so you decide to go to bed and check it in the morning. When you wake up, everything seems to be back to normal, but the area is swollen again by the end of the day. What’s causing this to happen? How can you fix it?
A hydrocele is when a man or boy has swelling of the scrotum due to fluid collection around the thin sheath of the testicle. The causes vary depending on age. It’s a common condition for male infants during the development of the testicles before they’re born. It’s estimated that at least 5% of newborn boys have a hydrocele. Normal fetal growth involves the testicles descending from the abdominal cavity into the scrotum. During this time, a sac containing fluid accompanies each testicle. This fluid usually gets absorbed after the sac closes. Sometimes, the fluid is still there after the sac closes, known as a noncommunicating hydrocele. If the sac stays open, this means the fluid can flow back and forth between the abdomen and scrotum, resulting in the swelling fluctuating. This is called a communicating hydrocele and is often associated with inguinal hernias. Typically, the swelling is painless and might affect only one testicle. Usually, the fluid is absorbed within the child’s first year of life.
Adult men can develop hydroceles due to an injury or inflammation. Inflammation could be from an infection in the testicle or epididymis (the small, coiled tube at the back of each testicle). One risk for acquiring an infection in either of these areas is having a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most men with hydroceles don’t have pain but complain of a heaviness feeling in their scrotum. The swelling usually isn’t too bad in the morning and often gets worse throughout the day. If the hydrocele is caused by inflammation, pain can occur and will worsen if the inflammation increases. The good news is that a hydrocele isn’t usually dangerous and doesn’t impact fertility in most cases.
It’s important to note that if you notice any form of scrotal swelling, you or your child should be evaluated by a doctor since various conditions, not just hydroceles, can cause it. The treatment for a hydrocele is dependent on the cause. Most doctors will recommend a wait-and-see approach for baby boys since it’ll likely disappear on its own. If it doesn’t by the time they turn one, then the hydrocele will need to be surgically removed. For adult men, it’s vital to find and treat the underlying cause. By doing this, the hydrocele should clear up on its own. If it doesn’t, it’ll need to be surgically removed. If you or your child have sudden, severe scrotal pain and swelling, you should immediately see a doctor since this indicates a serious problem.
For baby boys, there isn’t anything specific you can do to prevent a hydrocele from occurring. For adult men, the best way to avoid a hydrocele is to do things to reduce your risk of injury and inflammation. This means practicing safe sex habits to prevent getting an STI, such as using a new condom every time you have sex. Also, drinking plenty of fluids, like water, will help you stay hydrated and have good urinary function so you don’t get a urinary tract infection that could precipitate an infection in your testicles.
Hydroceles can be concerning; however, they typically don’t result in long-term problems. If you have any questions or concerns about hydroceles, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the Urology Care Foundation’s Hydrocele and Inguinal Hernia page at https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/hydroceles-and-inguinal-hernia