Hydrocele development is much more common in infant boys than in adult men; while around 1% of adult men will develop a hydrocele, up to 10% of infant males are born with one. In most cases hydroceles are harmless and not painful; many do not require any treatment, and will simply reduce in size and disappear on their own. However, because scrotal swelling is also a symptom of more dangerous diseases such as cancer, any testicular or scrotal swelling should be examined by a doctor.
In male infants, hydrocele develops before birth as a result of a minor defect in genital development. Typically, when the testicles descend into the scrotum during development, they are surrounded by a fluid-filled sac. In normal development the fluid is absorbed, and the sac closes. A hydrocele develops if the fluid is not completely absorbed. Generally the hydrocele will shrink and disappear within a year after birth.
In adult males, most cases of hydrocele are caused by injury to the testicle, or inflammation of the scrotum.
Treatment of Hydrocele
Diagnosis of hydrocele is often a matter of ruling out more serious causes of scrotal swelling such as a hernia or tumor. In addition to a physical examination, diagnosis might include blood tests and ultrasound.
Infant males with hydrocele do not usually need to be treated for this condition; however surgical removal may be necessary if the hydrocele has not disappeared within twelve months after birth. The following treatments are used to address the problem of how to eliminate hydrocele in men.
The simplest treatment for hydrocele is called needle aspiration. In this treatment the fluid in the hydrocele is removed via a fine needle inserted into the scrotum. However, because it is common for more fluid to build up in the scrotum, this treatment is generally only performed on men who cannot undergo surgery.
Surgical removal of a hydrocele is usually an outpatient procedure which is fairly simple and short. In this procedure the hydrocele is removed via an incision in the scrotum. Following the procedure, the patient might wear a temporary drainage tube to prevent fluid building up in the scrotum, and may need to wear a support device for a week or longer.
While most cases of hydrocele are not dangerous, in adult males the underlying cause of the hydrocele may be. If the hydrocele is caused by an infection or tumor, fertility may be affected. Sometimes a hydrocele develops as a result of inguinal hernia, which is potentially fatal.
Cleveland Clinic: Hydrocele and Spermatocele
The Mayo Clinic: Hydrocele
Scott E Rudkin, MD for eMedicine: Genitourinary Emergency Medicine: Hydrocele
Steven L Lee, MD for eMedicine: Common Problems of the Testicle: Hydrocele