Undescended Testicle

Undescended Testicle

What is an undescended testicle?

A male baby's testicles develop inside the abdomen before birth. Usually they descend to their permanent place inside the scrotum a month before the birth. However, in some cases, one or both testicles do not complete this descent (fail to drop), leading to an undescended testicle. Usually, only one testis fails to descend.

This condition is more common in premature babies, as they may be born before the testicles would normally descend.

In babies that are not premature, it is unknown why some are born with an undescended testicle.

What are the symptoms of an undescended testicle?

Other than the absence of one or both testicles from the scrotum, there are no symptoms. There is no pain associated with an undescended testicle.

Why is it important to have an undescended testicle corrected?

There are two main reasons why this condition must be treated. The first is infertility. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of infertility in men who have a history of undescended testicles. This risk increases if both testicles are undescended.

The second reason is testicular cancer. If the testicle has not made it to the scrotum, it is not accessible to physical examination. A person with testicular cancer has a much better chance of recovery if the cancer is detected early. For this reason, regular physical examinations, by either the man or his doctor, are extremely important. If a man is unable to check himself, cancer may go undetected.

As well as these two reasons it is also important to take into account the embarrassment a man may feel if he has an undescended testicle. This is another reason why this condition should be corrected.

What is the treatment?

An undescended testicle is lowered into the scrotum in a surgical procedure known as orchidopexy.

When is the best time for treatment?

The best time for treatment is before a child is two years old. Ideally however, it should be done by the time the child is one year old.

Is medical treatment always required?

No. Many undescended testicles descend within the first few months of life.

What is a retractile testicle?

In some cases, the testicle may be found inside the groin. However, it can be brought down into the scrotum for examination. This is due to hyperactive muscles that temporarily pull the testicles into the groin.

Retractile testicles usually don't require treatment, because they generally don't injure the testicles, and do not carry the same risk of infertility and cancer as an undescended testicle. They usually settle down in the scrotum before puberty.

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