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Hydrocele – Does it require treatment or just watchful waiting?

Overview:

A hydrocele is a specific kind of swelling in the scrotum. The scrotum is a thin sac which houses the testicles in the male. A hydrocele occurs when fluid gets accumulated in this scrotal sac that surrounds the testicle. It is pronounced as ‘hi-droe-seel’ and mostly common in newborns. It generally disappears when infants turn a year old. However, it could happen to older boys and men too, due to an inflammation or injury in the scrotum. So, let us know more about this particular condition.

Symptoms of Hydrocele:

Usually, the only sign of a hydrocele is a painless swelling on one or both of the testicles. In adult men, there might be a heavy feeling or discomfort due to a swollen scrotum. It is generally painless, but pain may be felt with the inflammation. In certain cases, the swollen affected area looks small in size during the morning and become larger as the day goes by.

Causes of Hydrocele:

Hydrocele is a condition that is mostly present at birth. However, some may be developed later on in life. The reasons for each of the cases are:

  • In newborns: A hydrocele develops even before birth. Generally, testicles descend into the scrotum and are surrounded by a sheath. This allows fluid to surround them. The sack has a closing function which gets the fluid absorbed. But sometimes, there are issues with this closing mechanism or regarding the absorption of the fluid. The sac could alter in size or if the sac is compressed, the absorption is not complete. This leads to hydrocele. Babies who are born prematurely are at a higher risk of developing hydrocele.
  • In older males: A hydrocele could also develop due to an injury or an inflammation in your scrotum. An infection in your testicles or in the small, coiled tube at its back could be the reason for the inflammation. People who suffer such injuries, inflammation or an infection have a greater risk of developing hydrocele.

Treatment for Hydrocele:

If your newborn has a hydrocele, you need not worry much as it will most likely go away within one year. However, if it does not go away after the mentioned time period, or gets quite large, you need to consult a doctor for surgery. In adults, hydroceles are believed to be cured within six months’ time. A hydrocele requires to be surgically treated only if it is causing too much discomfort. Hydroceles can be treated by:

  • Surgery: The surgery done to remove a hydrocele is executed under anesthesia. In most cases, the patient is free to go home after a few hours of the surgery. During this surgery, a small incision is made in the abdomen or scrotum, as per the location of the hydrocele. After the hydrocele is removed, a large dressing is applied on to the site of the incision. Depending on the size and location of the hydrocele, the patient may need to use a drainage tube for a few days post-surgery. Use of ice packs and follow-up exams are highly recommended after the surgery as hydrocele is capable of reoccurring.
  • Needle aspiration: An alternative to surgery is to drain the hydrocele using a big, long needle. The needle is injected into the sac to drain out the fluid. In certain cases, a drug may also be administered to stop the sac from filling again. This procedure is mainly done on individuals who are at a high medical risk of surgical complications.

When to see a doctor:

If your child is experiencing a scrotal swelling, it is important to consult the doctor to rule out other causes which might cause the swelling. It should disappear within a year. But, if it does not, or gets enlarged, you need to get it examined closely by a doctor. Also, if your child experiences sudden, extreme scrotal pain or swelling, following an injury to the scrotum, you need to get him immediate medical attention.

Prevention of Hydrocele:

Hydroceles are a congenital condition for most baby boys and a self-correcting condition and will go away when your child turns one. However, when it comes to adult hydrocele, there are a few ways in which you can prevent it:

  • The best protection from adult hydrocele is to keep the testicles and scrotum protected well from injuries.
  • If you take part in sports or athletics, you should make the use of an athletic cup.
  • You should also refrain from wearing very tight underwear.
  • You should be cautious if you do horse riding.

Conclusion:

A hydrocele does not generally affect fertility and is not typically dangerous. But, if the swelling persists and proper attention is not given to the condition, it could be due to other reasons like testicular cancer, or tumors or even inguinal hernia. So, always be on the safe side, and no matter whether your child or you yourself develop hydrocele, make sure to visit the doctor to obtain the right advice .

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