A hydrocele is a fluid-filled sac surrounding a testicle that leads to swelling of the scrotum, the loose bag of skin underneath the penis.
Screening and diagnosis entails a physical exam, which may show an enlarged scrotum that isn't tender to the touch. Pressure to the abdomen or scrotum may grow or shrink the fluid-filled sac, which may indicate an associated inguinal hernia. Because the fluid in a hydrocele often is clear, the doctor may shine a light through the scrotum (transillumination). With a hydrocele, the light will outline the testicle, indicating that clear fluid envelops it.
For baby boys, hydroceles generally disappear on their own within a year. If a hydrocele doesn't disappear after a year or if it continues to enlarge, it may be required to be surgically removed. For adult males as well, hydroceles typically go away on their own. A hydrocele requires treatment only if it gets large enough to result to discomfort or disfigurement. Then it may need to be taken out.
Hydrocele Symptoms and Signs
Generally the only indication of a hydrocele is a painless swelling of one or both testicles.
In most cases, the sac closes in and the fluid is absorbed. However, if the fluid is retained after the sac closes, the condition is known as a noncommunicating hydrocele. Because the sac is closed off, fluid can't flow back into the abdomen. Often the fluid gets absorbed within a year.
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