Epididymitis (ep-ih-did-uh-MY-tis) is an inflammation of the coiled tube, called the epididymis, at the back of the testicle. The epididymis stores and carries sperm. Males of any age can get epididymitis.
Epididymitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. Sometimes, a testicle also becomes inflamed — a condition called epididymo-orchitis.
Epididymitis is usually treated with antibiotics and measures to relieve discomfort.
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Epididymitis is an inflammation of the coiled tube, called the epididymis, at the back of the testicle.
Symptoms of epididymitis might include:
- A swollen, discolored or warm scrotum
- Testicle pain and tenderness, usually on one side, that often comes on slowly
- Pain when you pass urine
- An urgent or frequent need to urinate
- Discharge from the penis
- Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen or pelvic area
- Blood in the semen
- Less commonly, fever
Epididymitis that lasts longer than six weeks or that happens over and over again is considered chronic. Symptoms of chronic epididymitis might come on slowly. Sometimes the cause of chronic epididymitis isn't able to be found.
When to see a doctor
Don't ignore scrotal pain or swelling. This can be caused by a number of conditions. Some of them need treatment right away to avoid permanent damage.
If you have severe pain in the scrotum, seek emergency treatment. If you have discharge from your penis or pain when you pass urine, see a health care provider.
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Male reproductive system
The male reproductive system makes, stores and moves sperm. Testicles produce sperm. Fluid from the seminal vesicles and prostate gland combine with sperm to make semen. The penis ejaculates semen during sexual intercourse.
Causes of epididymitis include:
- STIs. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are the most common causes of epididymitis in young, sexually active males.
- Other infections. Bacteria from a urinary tract or prostate infection might spread from the infected site to the epididymis. Also, viral infections, such as the mumps virus, can result in epididymitis.
- Urine in the epididymis. This condition occurs when urine flows backward into the epididymis, causing chemical irritation. It may be the result of heavy lifting or straining.
- Trauma. A groin injury can cause epididymitis.
- Tuberculosis. Rarely, epididymitis can be caused by tuberculosis infection.
Certain sexual behaviors that can lead to STIs put you at risk of sexually transmitted epididymitis, including having:
- Sex with a partner who has an STI
- Sex without a condom
- Anal sex
- A history of STIs
Risk factors for epididymitis that's not sexually transmitted include:
- Having a prostate or urinary tract infection
- Having a medical procedure done that affects the urinary tract, such as insertion of a urinary catheter or scope into the penis
- An uncircumcised penis
- A difference in the typical anatomy of the urinary tract
- Prostate enlargement, which increases the risk of bladder infections and epididymitis
- Other health conditions that cause a weakened immune system, such as HIV
Complications of epididymitis include:
- Pus-filled infection, called an abscess, in the scrotum
- Collection of fluid around the testicle, called a hydrocele
- Epididymo-orchitis, if the condition spreads from the epididymis to a testicle
- Rarely, reduced fertility
To help protect against STIs that can cause epididymitis, practice safer sex.
If you have recurrent urinary tract infections or other risk factors for epididymitis, your health care provider might talk with you about other ways you can help prevent the condition.
Dec. 09, 2022