What are the causes and treatments for hydrocele?

Symptom Database

A hydrocele is a condition that occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid in the sac surrounding the testicles. This can cause swelling and discomfort in the affected area. Hydroceles can occur in both adults and infants, and while they are generally not harmful, they may require treatment if they cause significant discomfort or affect fertility. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for hydrocele.

Causes of Hydrocele

Hydroceles can have various causes, depending on the age of the individual. Here are some common causes:

  • Adults: In adults, hydroceles are often caused by an injury or infection in the scrotum. They can also be a result of inflammation or blockage of the spermatic cord.
  • Infants: Hydroceles in infants are usually present at birth and occur due to the incomplete closure of the sac that surrounds the testicles during development.

Symptoms of Hydrocele

The main symptom of a hydrocele is swelling in the scrotum. Other symptoms may include:

  • Heaviness or discomfort in the scrotum
  • Enlargement of the affected testicle
  • Pain or tenderness

If you or your child experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Hydrocele

To diagnose a hydrocele, a healthcare professional will perform a physical examination of the scrotum. They may also order additional tests, such as an ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes of the swelling.

Hydrocele Management

In some cases, hydroceles may resolve on their own without any treatment. However, if the hydrocele is causing discomfort or affecting fertility, treatment options may be considered. Here are some management strategies:

  • Observation: If the hydrocele is small and not causing any symptoms, a healthcare professional may recommend regular monitoring to ensure it does not worsen.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. However, medication alone cannot cure a hydrocele.
  • Hydrocele aspiration: This procedure involves draining the fluid from the hydrocele using a needle. While it provides temporary relief, the hydrocele may reoccur.

Hydrocele Surgery

If conservative management options are not effective or the hydrocele is causing significant discomfort, surgery may be recommended. The two main surgical procedures for hydrocele are:

  • Hydrocelectomy: This procedure involves making an incision in the scrotum to remove the hydrocele sac. It is usually performed under general anesthesia and is considered a permanent solution.
  • Laparoscopic repair: In this minimally invasive procedure, a small incision is made in the abdomen, and a tiny camera is used to guide the surgical instruments. Laparoscopic repair is associated with a shorter recovery time compared to hydrocelectomy.

Hydrocele Prevention

While hydroceles cannot always be prevented, there are some measures that can reduce the risk of developing one. These include:

  • Avoiding injury to the scrotum
  • Practicing good hygiene to prevent infections
  • Seeking prompt treatment for any scrotal swelling or discomfort

It is important to note that not all hydroceles can be prevented, as some may be congenital or occur due to factors beyond an individual’s control.

Hydrocele Complications

In most cases, hydroceles do not cause any complications. However, in rare instances, complications may arise, such as:

  • Infection: If the hydrocele becomes infected, it can lead to pain, redness, and fever. Prompt medical attention is necessary in such cases.
  • Hernia: In some cases, a hydrocele may be associated with a hernia, which occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. Surgical intervention may be required to address the hernia.

If you experience any unusual symptoms or complications related to a hydrocele, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and treatment.

In conclusion, hydroceles are a common condition that can occur in both adults and infants. While they are generally not harmful, they may cause discomfort and require treatment in some cases. If you or your child experience symptoms of a hydrocele, it is important to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and appropriate management. With the right treatment, hydroceles can be effectively managed, providing relief and improving quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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