What is a hydrocele?
Hydrocele refers to a collection of fluid in the membrane of the testes resulting in swelling in the scrotum. The swelling can take place on one or both sides of the scrotum. While hydroceles are the most common in babies, they can affect males of any age.
Types of hydrocele include:
- Noncommunicating hydrocele
- Communicating hydrocele
The major amongst hydrocele symptoms is a swollen scrotum. Hydrocele does not cause any pain. Hydroceles can be uncomfortable in adults. The larger the amount of fluid in the hydrocele, the heavier the scrotum feels. In some cases, the patient may find the swelling more uncomfortable in the morning than in the evening.
If you or your child experiences sudden and severe pain in their scrotum, it is vital to seek medical attention. The symptoms can be from restricted blood flow in a twisted testicle or testicular torsion and may require immediate treatment.
Who is at risk?
In most cases, hydroceles are present at birth. There is a higher risk of having a hydrocele in babies who are born prematurely.
Risk factors for developing a hydrocele later in life may include:
- Injury or inflammation to the scrotum
- An infection, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Hydrocele causes depend upon the age of the patient.
During pregnancy, when the male fetus is growing, the testicles develop in the abdomen near the kidneys. The testicles move down to their usual position into a sac of skin that holds them, called the scrotum. This happens by the end of a full-term pregnancy.
For the testicles to descend, a muscle lining, called the inguinal ring, opens in the scrotum, forming a sac or canal. Once the testicles move and descend to their usual position, the inguinal ring closes. If the ring stays open or reopens, fluid can pass from the belly to the scrotum through this canal, leading to the formation of a hydrocele.
The chances of development of hydrocele increases when babies are born before the testicles have descended.
A communicating hydrocele can form in older males if the inguinal ring has not closed up or reopens. Other possible hydrocele reason or causes in adult males include:
Hydrocele is not usually dangerous and will not affect the fertility of the patient. In rare cases, hydrocele might be linked to an underlying testicular condition, like an infection, tumor, or inguinal hernia.
How is a hydrocele diagnosed?
For hydrocele diagnosis, a doctor will perform a physical examination. The doctor may check for the presence of tenderness in the scrotum and shine a light through the scrotum. This is known as transillumination. It allows the doctor to understand if the fluid is present in the scrotum.
The doctor may also apply pressure on the abdomen to check for the presence of another condition known as an inguinal hernia. During the examination, the doctor may also ask you to cough or bear down. An inguinal hernia occurs when due to a weak point in the abdominal wall, a part of the small intestine protrudes through the groin. It is not usually life-threatening. However, a doctor may recommend surgery to repair it.
That doctor may order hydrocele test such as urine and blood tests to check for infection. They may also administer an ultrasound to check for tumors, hernias, or any other cause for scrotal swelling.
Care.fit is a leading healthcare service provider with an in-house pharmacy and diagnostics setup for full-body health check-ups and doctor consultations.
How is hydrocele treated?
In cases of a new infant, the hydrocele may go away on its own in about a year. In cases where it doesn’t go away or becomes very large, surgery by a urologist might be needed.
In adults, it typically goes away in six months with the help of hydrocele medicine. Surgery is usually required only if the hydrocele causes discomfort or is a communicating hydrocele that can lead to hernias.
Surgery to remove a hydrocele is usually performed under anesthesia. It involves making a small cut in the abdomen or the scrotum, depending upon the location of the hydrocele, and removing the hydrocele.
Another option is to drain the hydrocele using needle aspiration. The procedure involves inserting a long needle into the sac to draw out the fluid. Chemicals may then be injected into the hydrocele to stop it from refilling with fluid.
How can hydrocele be prevented?
The best measure for hydrocele prevention in adults is keeping the testicles and scrotum protected from injury. This can be done by using protective gear, such as using an athletic cup when taking part in sports.