A hydrocele is sac that is filled with fluid which forms on a testicle. It causes inflammation or swelling in the scrotum. They are most common in babies, but can affect males of any age. In adult men, it often affects those that are middle-aged or older. They are not a very serious condition as there are not any severe complications associated with the condition unless they are associated with an infection, tumor, or inguinal hernia. They are also often painless. About 10 percent of males are born with a hydrocele.
The main sign or symptom of a hydrocele is a painless swelling in one or both testicles. Adult men who have a hydrocele may experience pain or discomfort as a result of the weight caused by the swollen scrotum.
There are two types of hydroceles: noncommunicating and communicating. A noncommunicating hydrocele occurs when the sac closes, but your body does not absorb the fluid. The remaining fluid is typically absorbed into the body within a year. A communicating hydrocele occurs when the sac surrounding your testicle doesn’t close all the way, allowing fluid to flow in and out.
Risk factors for developing a hydrocele:
· Being a newborn male. Most hydroceles occur in male newborn babies. Between 1 and 2 percent of newborn males have hydroceles.
· Being born prematurely. Babies who are born prematurely have a higher risk of having a hydrocele.
· Being over 40 years old. In adults, hydroceles are most common among men who are aged 40 or over.
· Scrotal injury
· Infection (such as a sexually transmitted infection or STI)
In order to diagnose a hydrocele, your doctor will do a physical examination. This may include checking for tenderness in an enlarged scrotum or applying pressure to the abdomen and scrotum to check for an inguinal hernia. Your doctor may also perform what is called transillumination, which is done by shining a light through the scrotum. Blood tests, urine tests, or an ultrasound may be done as well.
Treating a hydrocele depends on the person and the severity of the condition. When babies are born with a hydrocele, the hydrocele often disappears within six months to one year. If it doesn’t go away or gets even bigger, surgery may be needed to remove the hydrocele. Babies often get hydroceles as a result of inguinal hernias which can be treated with hernia surgery. In adult men, they often don’t require treatment unless they are causing significant discomfort. Adult men often get hydroceles as a result of an infection or injury to the scrotum. Sometimes, the cause is unknown. If the hydrocele requires surgery, a small incision is made in the scrotum to remove the fluid-filled sac as well as some tissue.