The testicles are a very sensitive part of the body, and discovering that one or both testicles are swollen can be a cause for alarm. Luckily, understanding what a swollen testicle means and how to treat it can go a long way to easing the mind and fixing the problem.
There are several reasons why a testicle would be swollen:
- Infection: The testicle and epididymis, the part of the testicle that stores sperm, can sometimes become infected, causing pain and swelling that starts quickly and gets worse.
- Fluid Buildup: An injury or infection can cause fluid to build up around the testicle, causing painful swelling. This is called a hydrocele.
- Varicocele: A varicocele is essentially varicose veins of the scrotum and can result in testicular swelling and aching.
- Trauma: An impact or other injury can cause the testicle to swell and be painful. How bad this is depends on the trauma and whether the testicle stays intact or is ruptured.
- Cancer: Testicular cancer can cause the testicle to swell up and feel hard, but often without causing pain.
When to See a Doctor
When it comes to testicular swelling, the first rule of thumb is that you should see a doctor when you notice the swelling and it concerns you, or if it the swelling or pain become uncomfortable. You should also see a doctor if:
- You Feel No Pain: Pain or discomfort should accompany testicular swelling if you have an infection and often with buildup of fluid. No pain, along with a firm, swollen testicle, could be a warning sign of cancer.
- The Swelling Is Not Going Away: If the swelling persists, it is likely a sign that you have something that requires medical attention.
If your swollen testicles are the result of injury, fluid buildup or varicocele, then lying down and elevating the scrotum, perhaps by putting a folded towel underneath it to lift it, will allow fluid and/or blood to flow out and will often make you feel better.
Swollen testicles can potentially impact fertility or the ability of the testicle to make testosterone, particularly if the reason is cancer, severe trauma, infection, or varicocele. In some cases, this is just temporary, such as in the case of an easily treated infection, but in some cases where there is permanent damage to the testicular tissue, it may be more difficult to have children or for the testicle to make normal levels of testosterone. In cases where there is cancer, the testicle is removed completely, which can also impact fertility and testosterone balance.
A simple, quick way to keep your testicles healthy is to perform a testicular self-exam every month or so. By doing this, you become familiar with your testicles and can identify changes that might be signs of cancer or infection. If you find something early, you can seek medical help before it becomes a bigger problem.