Hydrocele Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Hydrocele is the collection of fluid around one or both testicles. This accumulation of fluid leads to swelling up of the scrotal region. According to the American Urological Association, 10% of all male babies born in the US suffer from this condition. However, hydrocele may develop at any stage of a man’s life.
Causes of Hydrocele
When a baby is developing inside the womb, the testicles are surrounded by a fluid filled sac and lie in the abdominal cavity of the baby. Towards the end of the pregnancy, the testicles descend and reach the scrotal cavity. The sacs present around the testes close on their own and the fluid present therein is absorbed by the body. However, at times, the sacs may fail to close or the fluid in them fails to get re-absorbed. This may lead to hydrocele in babies.
In adult males, the sac may not close completely and may get filled up by the abdominal fluid. Or there may be fluid collection in the sac as a result of some trauma or inflammation of the testes. This may again cause swelling in the scrotal region called as hydrocele.
Inflammation of the epididymis or cancer of the testis or kidney may also give rise to hydrocele.
Types of Hydrocele
There are two main types of hydrocele:
- Non-Communicating Hydrocele: Here, the sac is not connected to the abdominal cavity. The fluid in the sac usually gets resorbed by the body on its own. In case of babies, this type of hydrocele usually disappears within the first year of life.
- Communicating Hydrocele: In this type of hydrocele, the sac around the testes does not close completely. There is still some communication with the abdominal cavity. This type of hydrocele increases and decreases in size as the fluid keeps moving in and out of the sac. It usually does not heal on its own and has to be treated surgically.
Hydroceles generally do not produce any symptom. When large, they just appear unsightly. However, very large hydroceles may produce a dragging sensation and a dull aching pain in the scrotal region.
In case hydrocele is formed post inflammation of the testes or the epididymis, there may be pain and redness in the scrotal region.
Treatment of Hydrocele
Small non-communicating hydroceles generally do not require any treatment as they get resorbed on their own. In case of large hydroceles, needle aspiration of the fluid may be a good option for elderly people who are not fit for surgery. However, it may lead to some pain and can be a source of infection. Moreover, the hydrocele may develop again.
In adults suffering from large hydroceles, it can be a source of embarrassment. These hydroceles are treated surgically. The sac is emptied, and the line of communication between the abdominal cavity and the scrotal cavity is closed. The sac is then inverted, a step better known as Marsupialization of the sac. Drawbacks of surgery include formation of blood clots and injury to the scrotum.