Testicles are two egg-shaped organs that are inside the scrotum, behind the penis. Their main function is to create male hormones and sperm. Since testicles can become infected or inflamed, and in rare cases, develop cancer, it is recommended that males check their testes monthly, examining for swelling, lumps, redness, or irritation.
Non-Cancerous Testicular Disorders
Some of the most common testicle disorders are testicular trauma, testicular torsion, epididymitis, hypogonadism.
Testicular Trauma: Since the testes hang outside of the body and are not protected by bone or muscle, they are easier to damage through physical trauma. Trauma can include being punched, kicked, struck, or crushed. Most often, this takes place during various forms of contact sports, and men and boys are advised to wear protective gear when competing.
Trauma can result in swelling, severe pain, bruising, and tenderness. Since testicles are made of malleable material, they can often absorb blows and avoid serious damage. A testicular rupture, when blood seeps into the scrotum, may require surgery to save the testicle.
Testicular Torsion: Each testicle is secured within the scrotum by the spermatic cord. Sometimes, this cord can get tangled or twisted, much like a garden hose, cutting off blood flow to the testicle.
Symptoms include sudden severe pain, swelling, vomiting, nausea and fever. Torsion is a rare disorder and most often takes place in teenage boys. There is no way to prevent torsion, and it is considered a medical emergency. If the spermatic cord remains twisted for more than a few hours, the testicle may die.
Testicular Epididymitis: The epididymis is a coiled cord that rests on each side of the testicle. It transports sperm from the testicle to the penis. Epididymitis occurs when the tube is inflamed.
Symptoms include severe pain, area hot to the touch, fever, painful intercourse, and painful ejaculation. It is most often caused by infection, due to a buildup of bacteria in the urinary tract, and it can also be caused by the STD chlamydia.
Treatment includes antibiotic to fight the infection, bed rest, and anti-inflammatory medicine. Partners also need to be treated if the epididymitis is STD related. Untreated, epididymitis can lead to a buildup of scar tissue that blocks sperm from leaving the testicle, causing fertility problems. It can also cause repeating infections.
Testicular Hypogonadism: Hypogonadism takes place when the testicles are not secreting enough testosterone. Testosterone is key to the health and development of males, including muscle mass, strength bone mass, fat distribution, sex drive, and sperm count.
Symptoms include: Erectile dysfunction, infertility, decreasing levels of muscle mass and increase body fat, loss of hair on head and beard and increasing body hair, and emotional symptoms including depression, mood swings, and fatigue.
Causes can be wide ranging, from too much iron in the blood to natural aging. Other causes include side-effects of medication, pituitary disorders, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and some cancer treatments. Treatment varies but usually includes either testosterone replacement therapy or pituitary hormones, if it is determined that a disorder in the pituitary gland is causing the hypogonadism.