Epididymitis is an inflammation of the epididymis (a coiled tube located on the back of the testis that collects and stores sperm).
The irritation and swelling of the epididymis can cause intense pain in the testicles and form an epididymal blockage or obstruction. An epididymal blockage can prevent sperm from getting into the vas deferens (the thicker tube that carries sperm from the epididymis to the prostate gland) and entering the seminal vesicles for ejaculation. This condition of the male reproductive system often happens in men between the ages of 14 and 35 and is a common cause of male infertility.
The expert urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta offer accurate diagnoses and tailor-made treatment plans for those with epididymitis and/or an epididymal blockage. They also have treatment plans for other conditions linked to male infertility such as varicocele or low sperm count. Call or book an appointment now.
What Are the Causes of Epididymitis?
The different causes of epididymitis include:
- Infections: The epididymis is one of the structures in the scrotum that is very vulnerable to bacterial infections (such as urinary tract infections, prostate infections), viral infections, and sexually transmitted infections (such as chlamydia or gonorrhea). Infections can cause the epididymis to become permanently blocked.
- Urine in the epididymis (chemical epididymis): This is a condition that occurs when urine flows backward through the urethra into the epididymis. This is often due to heavy lifting or straining.
- Surgery: Certain surgeries performed in the scrotum can cause epididymal blockages such as spermatocele repair, vasectomy, hydrocele repair, surgery for trauma to the scrotum, and treatment for testicular torsion.
- Trauma: A groin injury can cause epididymitis.
What Are the Symptoms of Epididymitis?
Symptoms of epididymitis may include:
- Pain and tenderness in the testicles (the pain often comes on gradually and occurs on one side)
- Swelling of the scrotum
- Painful and frequent urination
- Blood in the semen
- Discharge from the penis
- Pain/discomfort in the pelvic area
- Fever (less common)
Epididymitis is considered chronic when the symptoms listed above recur or last longer than six weeks.
How Is Epididymitis Diagnosed?
A doctor can feel an epididymal obstruction by performing a physical exam of the testicles. An unblocked epididymis is usually flat and cannot be felt. However, a hardened and dilated epididymis may indicate a blockage.
Your doctor will also check for an enlarged testicle on the affected side and swollen lymph nodes in your groin. Your doctor might also do a rectal examination to check for an enlarged prostate or tenderness.
Can an Epididymal Obstruction Be Treated?
Yes, antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial epididymitis. Taking the entire course of antibiotics is recommended, even if symptoms clear up sooner, to ensure that the infection is entirely gone.
Most patients feel better within 72 hours of taking an antibiotic. Actions like resting, applying ice packs, and taking pain medication can help to ease discomfort. Your doctor will likely schedule a follow-up visit to make sure the infection is gone.
If an abscess has formed on your scrotum, surgery may be required to drain the fluid. Sometimes, all or part of the epididymis may need to be removed surgically (epididymectomy). Surgery might also be considered if epididymitis is due to underlying physical abnormalities.
What Are the Complications of Epididymitis?
Complications of epididymitis include:
- A pus-filled infection (abscess) in the scrotum
- Epididymo-orchitis (when the condition spreads from your epididymis to your testicle)
- Rarely, reduced fertility (low sperm count)
If you have concerns regarding an epididymal obstruction and would like to know about the available treatment options, then make an appointment to speak to one of the urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta. Call or book an appointment now.