What is adult hydrocele?

A hydrocele occurs in males when fluid fills the scrotum, which is the sac under the penis that contains the testicles. Fluid can surround one or both testicles, causing swelling in the scrotum. Although the condition is much more common in baby boys, it may also occur in adult men.

normal scrotal anatomyHydrocele

Normal Scrotal Anatomy (left). Scrotal Anatomy with Hydrocele (right)

How common is adult hydrocele?

About 10% of newborn male infants have a hydrocele, which often clears up without any particular treatment within the first year of life. Hydroceles occur in only about 1% of adult men, and will often disappear on their own within the first 6 months.

What causes adult hydrocele?

Before birth, the testicles develop near the kidneys. By the time of birth, the testicles normally drop from their position inside the abdomen into the scrotum through a tunnel of muscles called the inguinal canal. If the peritoneal sac in the canal is reopened, fluid may leak from the belly into the scrotum and cause a hydrocele. If there is some inflammation in the cell linings of the sac surrounding the testicles, a hydrocele can result. Other causes of hydrocele include:

  • Blockage in the spermatic cord.
  • Inguinal hernia surgery.
  • Infection of the scrotum or a testicle.

What are the symptoms of adult hydrocele?

One side or both sides of the scrotum become swollen and feels heavy, like a water-filled balloon. In most cases an adult hydrocele is painless. However, the swelling of the scrotum may cause some discomfort. If pain is present, this could mean that more serious conditions including infection or testicular torsion (twisting of the testicle/cord) are present. You should contact a doctor right away if there is pain.

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