What is a hydrocele?
A hydrocele is a swelling of fluid, most commonly occuring in the scrotum between the thin layer of tissue surrounding the testes. These can be common in newborns, but also occur in older boys and men following injury to or inflammation of the scrotum. Generally, a hydrocele is not painful and may not need treatment, but it is always a good idea to visit a doctor.
It is not a serious condition, and in newborns and children a hydrocele will usually go away without treatment over time. On the other hand, in adults, surgery is usually required, but it is a simple procedure with very good results. If pain is experienced alongside a hydrocele, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of a hydrocele:
The key feature of a hydrocele is a swellin of fluid near the testicles. There is usually no pain experienced. They can occur on either side of the testicles, and can cause some discomfort for adults if the swelling increases in size.
How is a hydrocele diagnosed?
A doctor would first need to perform a full physical examination, checking the scrotum and the extent of the swelling. They will also check to see if the swelling is painful to the touch. Lastly, they would need to double check for an inguinal hernia, which may be done via ultrasound. It is also common to illuminate a light through the scrotum, as the transillumination indicates the presence of transparent fluids in the area of the testicle. Blood tests may be done to rule out infection.
What are the causes of hydrocele?
Hydroceles are common in newborns. This is because during the development of a baby in the uterus, the testicles descend from the abdomen through a duct to the scrotum. If the duct is not closed, it causes hydroceles, as the fluid drains and becomes trapped in the scrotum, causing swelling.
In older males, hydroceles can occur due to an accumulation of fluids around the testicle area. This could be caused by an overproduction of fluid by the body, due to injury or infection.
Can hydroceles be prevented?
Hydrocele cannot be prevented in babies. It is important to visit a specialist regularly if a hydrocele is found after birth.
Treatments for hydroceles:
As mentioned before, hydroceles usually disappear by themselves in male babies. If a hydrocele does not go away on its own in adults, surgery may be required to remove it. This surgery can be performed using general or local anaesthesia. The procedure involves making an incision in the scrotum or lower abdomen to remove the hydrocele. After surgery, a tube may be placed to drain the fluid, as well as dressing the area with a bandage for a few days. Hydroceles may reappear after surgery, which is why it is important to follow up with the doctor a while after the procedure.
What specialist treats hydroceles?
In babies, hydrocele should be treated by a specialist in pediatric surgery, and in adults by a specialist in urology.