A hydrocele is a sac of clear fluid that develops in the scrotum (the loose pouch of skin that holds the testicles). Hydroceles are most often found in newborn babies and can be on one or both sides of the scrotum. In babies, most hydroceles go away on their own.
Men, usually older than 40, can have hydroceles. There is no known way to prevent hydroceles.
In babies, hydroceles are usually caused during the baby's development. As babies develop, the testicles should move from the lower abdomen (belly) into the scrotum. Each testicle moves in a sac with fluid around it. Usually, the sac closes and the fluid moves back into the body. If fluid remains after the sac closes, one type of hydrocele forms. Sometimes, the sac may not close completely, and another type of hydrocele forms.
Hydroceles can also be caused by infections, inflammation, radiation therapy, and injuries. Hydroceles aren't contagious or hereditary.
Hydroceles generally don't cause much pain. However, they do cause the scrotum to get swollen on one or both sides. This swelling makes the scrotum feel like a balloon filled with water.
Your healthcare provider will make a diagnosis from a physical examination of the scrotal area. Sometimes, he/she will order ultrasonography of the scrotum to diagnose a hydrocele.
Ultrasonography is a test that uses soundwaves to get pictures of inside the body. It's important to find out whether a hydrocele or another more serious problem (such as testicular torsion or a tumor) is present.
Most hydroceles clear up in a few months with no treatment. Those that don't go away in that time may be treated with surgery. Surgery can be done as an outpatient operation. Either spinal or local anesthesia may be needed.
Another treatment possibility is aspiration. In this procedure, the doctor sticks a needle into the scrotum and takes out the excess fluid. A urologist can do this. Some urologists use aspiration along with injection of scarring agents to prevent the hydrocele from returning. As with any operation, complications of bleeding and infection can occur.
- Call your healthcare provider if you have swelling in the scrotal area.
- Get the opinion of a urologist if you’re thinking of surgery.
- Remember there’s 2% chance that the hydrocele will come back after surgery.
- Call your healthcare provider if you notice pain or swelling of a testicle or feel a lump on the
- Contact your healthcare provider if you need a referral to a surgeon (urologist).
- Call your healthcare provider if you have pain, bleeding, or fever after surgery for a hydrocele.
- Remember that hydroceles don’t affect how the testicles work and won’t make you impotent or make you unable to have an erection.
- Do not forget to report lumps or swelling to your primary healthcare provider. Other causes of lumps include spermatoceles, testicular torsion, and testicular cancers.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.