Cryptorchidism – the condition known as undescended testicles – is the most common genital abnormality in boys. While growing in his mother’s womb, a baby boy’s testicles normally form within the abdomen and later descend into the scrotum just before he is born. Cryptorchidism takes place when that movement does not occur.
Symptoms and Statistics
The health condition of undescended testicles affects approximately 4% of baby boys born at term and 30% of boys born prematurely. Of those, most of their testicles will descend naturally within the first three months of life. If, however, the testicles do not descend within those three months, treatment will be required, as the testicles will no longer naturally descend after that point. 1 or 2 boys out of 100 will end up needing treatment
The symptom of cryptorchidism is not seeing a testicle where one would normally “expect” to find it – in the scrotum
Diagnosis, Next Steps and When to Seek Medical Treatment
Typically, an undescended testicle will be noticed by the doctor providing the examination after birth. Parents should ask their doctor how often they need to check to see if the testicle descends on its own.
It is crucial to treat undescended testicles early in life, as cryptorchidism has been linked to such health risks as infertility and testicular cancer later in life.
Some older boys, ages 4 months through pre-adolescence, may seem to “lose” a testicle that was previously visible. This can be a symptom of either:
- Retracted Testicle – a testicle that moves between the scrotum and the groin and can be guided into the scrotum during a physical exam. This condition is not abnormal or considered a health risk.
- Ascending Testicle – a testicle that has moved back into the groin and cannot easily be moved back into the scrotum by hand. This condition requires medical attention.
Parents who notice a change in their son’s genitals or are concerned about the development of his genital organs are urged to contact their family pediatrician or urologist.
Potential causes or contributing factors to undescended testicles include:
- Low birth weight
- Family history of testicular problems
- Alcohol or tobacco use by the mother while pregnant
- Premature birth
- Parental exposure to some chemicals and pesticides before conception
Parents seeking medical attention for their son in regards to cryptorchidism should notify their provider if they experienced any of these conditions.
Associated Urologists of North Carolina is committed to providing exceptional pediatric care, and if your child is experiencing symptoms related to organ development or other urological problems, our board certified specialists can bring your family and child peace of mind. Our main branch and administrative office, located at 3821 Ed Drive, Raleigh, NC 27612, can be reached at 919-758-8677, and the contact information and driving directions for all eight regional AUNC clinics can be found at our contact page.