What is a hydrocele?
A hydrocele is a painless swelling of the scrotum caused by a collection of fluid around the testicles.
Testicles develop near the kidneys in the abdomen and descend to their normal place in the scrotum toward the end of pregnancy. When it is time for the testicles to leave the abdomen, a muscle ring on each side of the groin opens and allows the testicles to drop down into the scrotum. As the testicle descends, the lining of the abdomen also drops to line the scrotum. This channel usually closes, but if it remains open or reopens, a small amount of fluid can go from the abdomen to the scrotum through this passage.
Hydroceles can also develop due to inflammation or injury to the scrotum.
What are the symptoms?
Hydroceles seldom cause symptoms. The swelling of the scrotum does not bother a baby. About 10% of male infants have hydrocele at birth, and it usually disappears within the first year of life. Hydrocele in older males is usually painless, but can cause discomfort because of the enlarged scrotum.
How are hydroceles treated?
If hydroceles cause symptoms, such as growing large or changing in size throughout the day, they may require require treatment with an outpatient surgical or laser procedure during which an incision is made in the scrotum and the hydrocele is cut out, removing the tissues involved.
Any discomfort following the procedure can be managed by pain medication, and in most cases, the pain will subside in the first week. Activities may have to be restricted for sometime, but after surgery less than 1% of hydroceles return.