Epididymitis (ep-ih-did-uh-MY-tis) is an inflammation of the coiled tube (epididymis) at the back of the testicle that 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.
Signs and symptoms of epididymitis might include:
Epididymitis that lasts longer than six weeks or that recurs is considered chronic. Symptoms of chronic epididymitis might come on gradually. Sometimes the cause of chronic epididymitis isn't identified.
When to see a doctor
Never ignore scrotal pain or swelling, which can be caused by a number of conditions. Some of them require immediate treatment to avoid permanent damage.
If scrotal pain is severe, seek emergency treatment. See a doctor if you have discharge from your penis or pain when you urinate.
Causes of epididymitis include:
Certain sexual behaviors that can lead to STIs put you at risk of sexually transmitted epididymitis, including having:
Risk factors for nonsexually transmitted epididymitis include:
Complications of epididymitis include:
To help protect against STIs that can cause epididymitis practice safer sex.
If you have recurrent urninary tract infections or other risk factors for epididymitis, your doctor might discuss with you other ways of preventing a recurrence.
Your doctor will check for enlarged lymph nodes in your groin and an enlarged testicle on the affected side. Your doctor might also do a rectal examination to check for prostate enlargement or tenderness.
Tests your doctor might recommend include:
Antibiotics are needed to treat bacterial epididymitis and epididymo-orchitis. If the cause of the bacterial infection is an STI, your sexual partner also needs treatment. Take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor, even if your symptoms clear up sooner, to ensure that the infection is gone.
You should start to feel better within 48 to 72 hours of starting an antibiotic. Resting, supporting the scrotum with an athletic supporter, applying ice packs and taking pain medication can help relieve discomfort.
Your doctor is likely to recommend a follow-up visit to check that the infection has cleared.
If an abscess has formed, you might need surgery to drain it. Sometimes, all or part of the epididymis needs to be removed surgically (epididymectomy). Surgery might also be considered if epididymitis is due to underlying physical abnormalities.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Epididymitis usually causes considerable pain. To ease your discomfort:
Preparing for your appointment
You might be referred to a doctor who specializes in urinary issues (urologist).
What you can do
Make a list of:
Some questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, avoid sexual contact that could put your partner at risk of contracting an STI, including sexual intercourse, oral sex and any skin-to-skin contact with your genitals. Let your sex partner or partners know about your signs and symptoms so that they can also seek testing.