What is testicular torsion?

Testicular torsion is a painful, very serious condition in which a male’s testicular blood supply (the spermatic cord) gets twisted and cuts off blood flow to the testicle. It is a medical emergency and if not treated right away—within six hours—you can lose the testicle.

The testicles are the reproductive organs in a sac (scrotum) below the penis that make hormones and sperm. Therefore, this condition has the potential to affect your fertility potential.

Who gets testicular torsion?

Torsion is a rare but very serious condition. It affects about one in 4,000 males under the age of 25. It is most common in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18, a group that accounts for 65 percent of all cases.

It can affect newborns within the first year of life. This condition can also affect men over 25, although that is rare.

Testicular torsion is usually a spontaneous event.

What causes testicular torsion?

There is usually no cause that precedes testicular torsion, although an injury to the testicle has been associated with it.

Another cause of testicular torsion is a condition called “bell clapper” deformity. In most males, a testicle would not be able to twist because it is firmly attached to the scrotum. For a male who is born with bell clapper deformity, his testes are hanging in the scrotum and can swing freely, like a clapper in a bell. This can then lead to twisting. This deformity affects both testes, although it is very rare for twisting, or torsion, to occur in both sides of the scrotum at once.

What are the symptoms of testicular torsion?

A main symptom of testicular torsion is the sudden onset of severe testicular pain. It can occur when you are awake or asleep, standing or sitting. Torsion almost always affects only one testicle, and the left testicle is more commonly affected.

You should seek medical attention right away if you or your child is suffering from any of these symptoms:

  • Sudden severe pain in one testicle that is not caused by an injury or accident
  • Swelling on one side of the scrotum that is painful and visible to the eye
  • A visible lump in the testicle

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