A hydrocele is a painless bulge in the scrotum, developed due to the fluid collection inside the thin layer of skin around a testicle. Hydrocele is very common in newborn male babies. The baby recovers fully without any treatment before he turns one.
This particular condition is prevalent in adult males too. For them, hydrocele can involve different causes, including infection or injury. Usually, hydrocele doesn’t need hydrocele treatment. If an individual has scrotal swelling, he needs to consult a doctor to exclude the other harmful possibilities like testicular cancer.
What is a hydrocele?
When the scrotum, the thin sac which holds the testicles, gets too much fluid build-up inside, it becomes swelled up. This condition is called a hydrocele.
Around 10% of newborn males are born with this condition. Hydrocele is very rare in females. But they can also experience it along the canal of Nuck.
Both sides of the scrotum can get swelling. Though it is not painful, it can be uncomfortable if the bump gets bigger.
What are the types of hydrocele?
● Communicating hydrocele
● non-communicating hydrocele
● Nuck’s hydrocele
A communicating hydrocele is a type of hydrocele with a ‘communication’ or opening into the abdominal cavity. The abdominal fluid moves into the scrotum through the abdominal opening. An anomaly in the processus vaginalis (a thin membrane stretching through the inguinal canal and protracting into the scrotum) can lead to a communicating hydrocele.
Development of an inguinal hernia is also possible if the hydrocele is not treated immediately. In an inguinal hernia, a part of the intestine or intestinal fat comes into the inguinal canal in the genital area.
In a non-communicating hydrocele, the excess fluid around the testicles remains even after the inguinal canal is closed. It can be a congenital condition, or an individual can develop this later in life without any specific reason. A non-communicating hydrocele grows very slowly.
Nuck’s hydrocele is very rare. It develops in people without testicles. Nuck’s hydrocele usually happens inside the lining of the pelvic wall leading to painful swelling in the genitalia. The symptoms can be similar, like endometriosis, ovarian cancer, and some other conditions, making it difficult for healthcare providers to detect and treat the condition.
Symptoms of hydrocele:
One of the most common symptoms of hydrocele treatment is a swelled-up scrotum. The swelling can lead to pain and discomfort afterward. For adults, the swelling increases in the morning, leaving the individual with a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
In a communicating hydrocele, there is a possibility of developing an inguinal hernia. Inguinal hernia is painful and might require surgery if the condition deteriorates.
Diagnosis of hydrocele
When consulted with the healthcare provider, he will perform some physical examinations, including checking the scrotum to detect the location and severity of the swelling.
A test called transillumination is performed to check if the light goes through the swelling inside the scrotum. When the swelling is filled with fluid, the light will pass through. If the bulge is solid like a tumor, the light won’t pass through.
Though transillumination is a very effective method to identify the cause of the scrotal swelling, doctors might suggest some other procedures to ensure the diagnosis. They might go for an ultrasound to find out the cause of selling. Sometimes exploratory surgeries are also recommended to determine the actual cause of the swelling scrotum.
Treatment of hydrocele
Usually, for the babies, hydrocele goes away before the boy turns one. The doctor may refer to consult a urologist if the swelling doesn’t go away.
In some cases, the pediatrician can suggest surgery instead of waiting for the condition to get cured on its own. The hydrocele can be removed with a simple operation called hydrocelectomy.
The surgeon makes an incision in the baby’s scrotum or the lower belly to drain the fluid out. Once the sac is closed, the baby is advised to return home on the same day.
Another procedure is to drain the fluid out with the help of a needle. In this procedure, a long needle is inserted into the sac to take out the excess liquid. In some cases, sclerotherapy is done where the sac gets injected with some chemicals to stop the fluid build-up inside the sac. This treatment is generally suggested for adults.
Is it possible to prevent a hydrocele?
In babies, nothing can be done to prevent the hydrocele. Adults are advised to keep the testicles away from injury or use an athletic cup in case he is taking part in a sport.
Some preventive measures like maintaining a healthy weight, eating a fiber-rich diet, quitting smoking, and staying away from lifting heavy weights can help to some extent. According to recent studies, hydrocele affects children more than adults. Adults affected by communicating hydrocele treatment should get it monitored to prevent hernia in the future. Hydrocele never affects fertility in men.