What is the vas deferens?
Your two vasa deferentia (plural) are part of the male reproductive system. The vas deferens (singular) is also called a ductus deferens or a sperm duct. This long muscular tube runs from the epididymis into the pelvic cavity behind your bladder and connects to your urethra through a structure called the ejaculatory duct. Your vas deferens is surrounded by your spermatic cord and transports mature sperm to the urethra before you ejaculate.
What does the vas deferens do?
Your testes are the place where sperm cells are created. From there, the sperm moves into the epididymis, which is a structure located on top of the testicle. The epididymis stores sperm cells and has the job of bringing them to maturity so they’re able to fertilize eggs.
When you’re sexually aroused, muscle contractions move the sperm from the epididymis to the vas deferens and from there into the urethra so you’re able to ejaculate semen outside of your body. During the process, your body adds secretions to the sperm cells to make semen.
Where is the vas deferens located?
The vas deferens begins in the scrotum, which is the sac containing your testicles. The vas deferens then travels from the testicle into your body. It continues until it joins with the duct of the seminal vesicle to create the ejaculatory duct.
How long is the vas deferens?
The vas deferens, or ductus deferens, can be 30 centimeters (almost 12 inches) to 45 centimeters (almost 18 inches) long. Some parts of it are coiled, but other parts are straight. The tube is described as being fibromuscular, meaning that it’s made of fibrous tissue and muscle tissue.
Conditions and Disorders
What are the common conditions and disorders that can affect your vas deferens?
Conditions that may affect your vas deferens include:
- Congenital absence of vas deferens: Some men are born with this condition. You can be missing one vas deferens, which is called congenital unilateral absence of vas deferens. You can also be born without a vas deferens on either side, which is called congenital bilateral absence of vas deferens. This condition may be related to cystic fibrosis and can be a cause of infertility.
- Vasitis: This is a condition that happens when the vas deferens becomes thick, usually due to infection and inflammation (swelling) in nearby body parts. Other names for this condition are deferentitis or funiculitis.
- Blockage: This could happen if you have had trauma to your pelvis or a severe infection.
- Spermatocele: This term describes a cyst that develops above or behind your testicle.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (sexually transmitted infections): You can get these infections from any type of sexual activity involving your genitals, mouth or anus.
- Testicular disorders: These conditions include orchitis, testicular cancer, testicular torsion and undescended testicles.
While not really a condition, a vasectomy will affect each vas deferens. During the procedure, your surgeon will cut or burn the sperm duct in each testicle. This will stop sperm from leaving your body and is designed to be a permanent form of birth control.
What are common signs or symptoms of conditions that affect your vas deferens?
Some signs and symptoms that you may have a condition that is affecting your vas deferens include:
- Discharge from your penis.
- Azoospermia and infertility.
What are common tests to check the health of your vas deferens?
After taking your medical history and asking questions about your overall health and possible symptoms, your healthcare provider will do a physical exam. They will look at your penis and scrotum and will palpate (touch) them gently.
Your healthcare provider will use each hand to feel each of your testicles at the same time. Your provider knows what a healthy scrotum and spermatic cord feel like, so they can tell if there’s something not quite right.
Your provider may shine a bright light through your scrotum to be able to see if there is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst. This is called transillumination.
Your provider may order other tests, including:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
- Lab tests, such as urine and blood tests.
- Semen analysis.
What are common treatments for conditions that affect your vas deferens?
Treating your vas deferens depends on what’s causing the illness. Treatments may include:
- Taking medications like antibiotics for infections.
- Draining cysts with needles (aspiration).
- Surgery to repair varicoceles, remove masses or cysts or unblock your vas deferens.
What can I do to keep my vas deferens healthy?
The tips for keeping yourself healthy will help to keep your reproductive system, including your vas deferens, healthy.
- Try to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay hydrated and eat a variety of healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
- Practice safe sex.
- Wear protective equipment if you participate in sports.
- Know how your sex organs look and feel when they’re healthy. If you notice any changes, contact your healthcare provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a woman have a vas deferens?
No, but the fallopian tubes serve a similar purpose in the reproductive system typically described as female. The tubes move the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus where it’s possible that the eggs can be fertilized.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
You may never think about your vas deferens unless you have reason to think about it. One reason you may think about your sperm duct is if you’ve been trying to start a family, and you’re unable to do so. Another reason is if you have pain or swelling in the area. It’s important to have a good relationship with your healthcare provider, so you can answer their questions honestly. This way you’ll be able to work together to find a solution.
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