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Undescended Testicle: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What are the symptoms of an undescended testicle?

An undescended testicle, also known as cryptorchidism, occurs when one or both of the testicles fail to move into the scrotum before birth. Symptoms of an undescended testicle can vary depending on the location of the testicle and whether it is palpable (can be felt) or non-palpable (cannot be felt). Common symptoms include:

  1. Absence of a testicle in the scrotum: One or both testicles may not be present in the scrotum.
  2. Empty scrotum: The scrotum may appear smaller or less full than expected.
  3. Palpable undescended testicle: If the undescended testicle can be felt in the inguinal canal (the passageway through which the testicles descend into the scrotum), a small, firm, movable lump may be felt in the groin area.
  4. Non-palpable undescended testicle: If the undescended testicle cannot be felt in the groin area, imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI may be needed to locate the testicle.
  5. Fertility issues: In some cases, an undescended testicle may be associated with infertility later in life.
  6. Increased risk of testicular cancer: Men with a history of cryptorchidism have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer, even if the testicle is surgically brought down into the scrotum.

It’s important to note that in many cases, an undescended testicle will descend on its own within the first few months of life. However, if the testicle has not descended by the age of 6 months, treatment may be needed to bring the testicle down into the scrotum. Treatment options may include hormone therapy or surgery. If you suspect that your child has an undescended testicle, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and management.

What are the causes of an undescended testicle?

The exact cause of an undescended testicle is not always clear, but several factors may contribute to the condition. Some possible causes include:

  1. Abnormal development: During fetal development, the testicles form in the abdomen and normally descend into the scrotum before birth. If there is a problem with this process, such as abnormal development of the testicle or the structures that support it, the testicle may not descend properly.
  2. Hormonal factors: Hormones play a role in the descent of the testicles. Insufficient production of certain hormones, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) or testosterone, or abnormal response to these hormones by the testicle or other tissues, may contribute to an undescended testicle.
  3. Premature birth: Premature infants are more likely to have undescended testicles, as the testicles may not have had enough time to descend into the scrotum before birth.
  4. Genetic factors: There may be a genetic component to cryptorchidism, as it tends to run in families.
  5. Maternal factors: Certain factors during pregnancy, such as exposure to certain medications, smoking, or alcohol use, may increase the risk of an undescended testicle in the infant.
  6. Anatomical factors: Some anatomical abnormalities, such as a short or tight inguinal canal (the passageway through which the testicles descend), may make it difficult for the testicle to descend properly.

It’s important to note that in many cases, the exact cause of an undescended testicle is not known. If your child has an undescended testicle, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and management. Early detection and treatment of an undescended testicle are important to prevent potential complications and ensure normal testicular development.

What is the treatment for an undescended testicle?

The treatment for an undescended testicle depends on several factors, including the age of the child, the location of the undescended testicle, and whether one or both testicles are affected. Treatment options may include:

  1. Observation: In many cases, an undescended testicle will descend on its own within the first few months of life. If the testicle has not descended by the age of 6 months, your healthcare provider may recommend regular monitoring to see if it descends spontaneously.
  2. Hormone therapy: In some cases, hormone therapy may be used to stimulate the descent of the testicle. This typically involves injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that can stimulate the testicle to descend. Hormone therapy is most effective in infants under 6 months of age.
  3. Surgery (orchiopexy): If the testicle has not descended on its own by the age of 6-12 months, surgery may be recommended to bring the testicle down into the scrotum. During the surgery, called an orchiopexy, the surgeon will make a small incision in the groin and carefully move the testicle into the scrotum. The testicle is then secured in place to prevent it from reascending.
  4. Laparoscopic surgery: In some cases, especially if the undescended testicle is located high in the abdomen, laparoscopic surgery may be used to bring the testicle down into the scrotum. This minimally invasive procedure involves making several small incisions in the abdomen and using a camera and special instruments to guide the testicle into the scrotum.
  5. Regular follow-up: After treatment, regular follow-up visits with a healthcare provider are important to monitor the development of the testicle and ensure that there are no complications.

It’s important to discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate approach for your child. Early detection and treatment of an undescended testicle are important to prevent potential complications, such as infertility or an increased risk of testicular cancer, and ensure normal testicular development.

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About the Author: John Scott

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