Your doctor will start with a physical exam. It's likely to include:
- Checking for tenderness in an enlarged scrotum.
- Applying pressure to the abdomen and scrotum to check for inguinal hernia.
- Shining a light through the scrotum (transillumination). If you or your child has a hydrocele, transillumination will show clear fluid surrounding the testicle.
After that, your doctor might recommend:
- Blood and urine tests to help determine if you or your child has an infection, such as epididymitis
- Ultrasound to help rule out hernia, testicular tumor or other causes of scrotal swelling
In baby boys, a hydrocele sometimes disappears on its own. But for males of any age, it's important for a doctor to evaluate a hydrocele because it can be associated with an underlying testicular condition.
A hydrocele that doesn't disappear on its own might need to be surgically removed, typically as an outpatient procedure. The surgery to remove a hydrocele (hydrocelectomy) can be done under general or regional anesthesia. An incision is made in the scrotum or lower abdomen to remove the hydrocele. If a hydrocele is found during surgery to repair an inguinal hernia, the surgeon might remove the hydrocele even if it's causing no discomfort.
After hydrocelectomy, you might need a tube to drain fluid and a bulky dressing for a few days. Your doctor is likely to recommend a follow-up exam because a hydrocele might recur.
Preparing for your appointment
You might be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the urinary and reproductive tract (urologist). Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
- List symptoms you or your child has had and for how long
- List all medications, vitamins and supplements you or your child takes, including the doses
- List key personal and medical information, including other conditions, recent life changes and stressors
- Prepare questions to ask your doctor
For hydrocele, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What do you think is causing this swelling? Are there any other possible causes?
- What kinds of tests are needed?
- What treatment do you recommend, if any?
- What signs or symptoms will indicate that it's time to treat this condition?
- Do you recommend any restrictions on activity?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions that arise during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions.
If your child is affected, your doctor might ask:
- When did you first notice this swelling? Has it increased over time?
- Is your child in any pain?
- Does your child have any other symptoms?
If you're affected, your doctor might ask:
- When did you first notice the swelling?
- Have you had any discharge from your penis or blood in your semen?
- Do you have discomfort or pain in the affected area?
- Do you have pain during intercourse or when you ejaculate?
- Do you have a frequent or urgent need to urinate? Does it hurt when you urinate?
- Have you and your partner been tested for STIs?
- Do your hobbies or work involve heavy lifting?
- Have you ever had a urinary tract or prostate infection or other prostate conditions?
- Have you ever had radiation or surgery in the affected area?
What you can do in the meantime
If you are a sexually active adult, avoid sexual contact that could put your partner at risk of contracting an STI, including sexual intercourse, oral sex and any skin-to-skin genital contact.