Men's Health

What is Hydrocele?

What is Hydrocele?

Key Takeaways

  • There are various reasons why hydrocele occurs including the defective absorption of serous fluid, blood or fluid obstruction in the spermatic cord, and inguinal hernia.
  • Hydrocele is hardly a life-threatening condition. For infants, it usually goes away on its own. For adults, surgery, hydrocele needle aspiration, and medicine are used to treat this condition.

Hydrocele is a medical condition in which the scrotum becomes swollen because of buildup of fluid in the processus vaginalis. It is an uncomfortable situation that if left as is could disappear on its own (in the cases of one-year-olds and below), but should be dealt with in time to reduce the discomfort and time wasted. It usually occurs to newborns and men above the age of 40. Basically, pretty much anyone can get the condition but others are more prone to get it than others.

This article will give an overview of the following:

  • The symptoms
  • What causes it
  • How to diagnose it
  • How to treat the condition
  • Risks and complications
  • Infertility and recovery from surgery

Hydrocele is not a life-threatening condition and its severity should not be worrying to anyone. However, it is unsightly, ungainly and a total drag.

     1. The symptoms

More often than not, you may not notice any symptoms but you can have one little fact that will tip you off about the presence of the condition in your body.

The testis will swell to accommodate the fluid, and sometimes there will be pain and uncomfortable throbbing from the testis especially after you take a walk.

You can also tell from the redness and the pressure that is usually felt emanating from the base of the penis.

You may feel a lump that is usually painless at one or both of the testes.

     2.  What causes hydrocele

Normally, the testis goes down from the abdomen to the scrotum through a tube. The hydrocele condition happens when the tube fails to close and the abdominal fluids go down to the scrotum. Specifically, serous fluid is the one that goes down to the scrotum causing the fluid buildup.

The fluid buildup will start an inflammation of the scrotum.

Another possible cause of hydrocele is the obstruction of blood or fluid inside the spermatic cord that carries sperm to the testicle. But this kind is more dominant among older men, specifically above the age of 40.

In other cases, hydrocele can develop because of an inguinal hernia. It is the type of hernia that occurs when the intestinal loop shifts from its original position to the inguinal canal. It is, according to statistics, the most common cause of hernia in males.

     3. How to diagnose hydrocele

This is done by examining the scrotum after you notice that they appear enlarged. As part of the exam, the doctor will do a procedure called trans-illumination. This basically means shining a light from behind the testicles to illuminate the inside. By doing this, the doctor will notice any anomalies present and appropriately diagnose the condition.

The illumination will help the doctor see if it may be caused by other things such as cancer of the testicles. This is because light will not pass through the lumps that are characteristic of cancer.

To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor can order an ultrasound scan to be done to ascertain the diagnosis. In other cases, the scrotum cannot be felt due to the fluid that will be filling the scrotum. By pressing gently on the swollen scrotum, the doctor can feel them and tell if there is a problem.

     4. Treating the condition

Hydrocele is not a life-threatening condition and thus should not worry the patient unless they become large enough to cause discomfort or pain. Once they become an embarrassment or show no signs of disappearing, that’s when you take the step to have surgery.

The condition may worsen to the point where there is obstruction of the blood vessels that go to the testicles. The following are ways in which it can be treated.

  • Surgery - If the hydrocele is associated with an inguinal hernia; surgery is a must to make sure that no more complications arise out of it. In addition, surgery is the best option to take if the hydrocele does not go away on its own. This surgery is known as a hydrocelectomy and is carried out to fix the swelling and restore everything back to normal.
  • Hydrocele Needle Aspiration - A surgeon will get a needle that is surgically constructed to drain the fluid that is in the scrotum. This method is used for the people who have an aversion to surgery. If your doctor deems you unworthy of surgery, this will be the alternative option. It is the best way to treat hydrocele without necessarily operating on the patient.
  • Medication - Medicines are used to make the opening that allows the serous fluid to flow to become narrower. The medicines are also engineered to prevent any future recurrences of the condition.

      5. Complications and risks

There could be problems from the surgery and the aspiration process. Such complications may include:

  • Excess fibrous connective tissue (fibrosis)
  • Pain in the scrotum and its environs
  • A recurrence of the condition
  • Infection

Other side effects and risks that may occur include:

  • Injury to the testicles and the surrounding organs
  • Blood clot formation in the scrotum
  • Bruising or trauma of the scrotum and the tissue that surrounds it
  • Reaction to the medicine used in the surgery especially the anesthetic

    6. Infertility and recovery from surgery

During the operation, it is possible for the vas deferens, the tube that transports the sperm to the scrotum, to be injured. If it is severed or interfered with, one can be rendered infertile.

The recovery time, on the other hand, is not long and the patient can be back to normal in a day or two. It’s not like other surgeries. Also after the surgery has been performed, there is usually no chance of the condition recurring, although this may not be entirely impossible.

The Bottom Line

Hydrocele occurrences are not a life threatening situation that requires unwanted panic. Just keep calm and monitor the developments as they occur. If you can’t wait, you can consult a doctor who is trained to treat this condition. It is a relatively easy and safe procedure. Do not stay at home moaning your fate, but rather take action to do away with the problem once and for all.