Hydrocele – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
What is a hydrocele?
A hydrocele is swelling in the scrotum. The scrotum is the thin-walled sac that holds the testicles. This condition occurs when excess fluid is accumulated inside the sac. A hydrocele is common in newborn infants, but it can also affect adult males. Hydroceles are painless and usually disappear on their own in a few months.
What causes a hydrocele?
During a baby’s development in the womb, the testicles descend from the abdomen through a tube into the scrotum. Hydroceles occur when this tube does not close. Fluid drains from the abdomen through the open tube and gets trapped in the scrotum. This causes the scrotum to swell. Sometimes, a hydrocele may occur with an inguinal hernia.
Hydroceles may also be caused by a buildup of the normal fluid around the testicle. This may occur when the body makes too much of the fluid or it does not drain well. This type of hydrocele is more common in older men. This condition can also be caused by inflammation or injury of the testicle or epididymis.
What are the symptoms of a hydrocele?
The main symptom is a painless, swollen testicle, which feels like a water balloon. A hydrocele can occur on one or both sides.
How is a hydrocele diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check if the scrotum is swollen. The doctor may find swollen scrotum without any pain to touch. Often, the testicle cannot be felt because of the fluid around it. The size of the fluid-filled sac can sometimes be increased and decreased by putting pressure on the abdomen or the scrotum. If the size of the fluid collection changes, it is more likely to be due to an inguinal hernia.
A hydrocele can be easily seen by shining a flashlight through the swollen part of the scrotum. If the scrotum is full of clear fluid, the scrotum will light up.
The doctor may order an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.
How is a hydrocele treated?
Most hydroceles are not harmful and are not painful either. They are treated only when they cause infection or discomfort.
Hydroceles from an inguinal hernia should be fixed with surgery as soon as possible. Hydroceles that do disappear on their own in a few months may need to be fixed with surgery. The doctor may perform hydrocelectomy (removal of sac lining) to correct the problem.
Needle drainage can also be done but is not preferred, as the fluid will come back.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.