A hydrocele is a build-up of fluid in the membrane that surrounds the testicle.
Types of hydrocele include:
- Communicating—present at birth
- Noncommunicating—occurs at any age
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A hydrocele happens due to a problem with how the fetus develops. Testicles develop in the abdomen. They move into the scrotum through a small channel that should close after the testicles pass through it. When the channel does not close, fluid can pass from the abdomen into the membrane that covers the testicle.
A noncommunicating hydrocele may be caused by an injury or infection that causes fluid build-up. It can also be a complication of surgery. In some children, the cause is not known.
There are no known risk factors for hydrocele.
Sometimes there are not any symptoms. Other times, there may be:
- Swelling of the scrotum
- A feeling of heaviness or soreness in the scrotum
- Swelling with activity or standing
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the testicles. This is usually enough to make the diagnosis.
If the diagnosis is not clear, pictures may be taken of the testicles. This can be done with an ultrasound.
A communicating hydrocele usually goes away on its own during the first year of life. A noncommunicating hydrocele may also get better with time. The doctor will watch for any changes.
In others, the goal is to reduce fluid buildup to ease symptoms. This can be done with:
- Aspiration to remove fluid with a needle
- Surgery to remove a hydrocele that is causing problems
There are no known guidelines to lower the risk of hydrocele.
- Hydrocele. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/hydrocele-causes-symptoms-and-treatment.
- Hydrocele in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hydrocele-in-adults-and-adolescents-18.
- Hydrocele in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hydrocele-in-infants-and-children.
- Mark S. Itzkowitz, MD, JD
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