Scrotal Swelling in Children: Causes & Treatment

10 min read

Have you heard of scrotal swelling in children? Oh yes, that is possible indeed! Scary to hear or read about, agreed! But as a parent, you need to know some details about this condition if you have a baby boy.

This is a common issue that arises in young boys. It is always better to be aware of such a condition so that you can recognize it if your child suffers from it. You can also help another distraught parent. Scrotal Swelling in children

Scrotal Swelling in Children:

The male reproductive organ has two testicles. This is encased in a sac called the scrotum. Scrotal swelling is quite common and can happen at a very young age too. It can be very painful, and sometimes scrotal swelling in children can be completely painless. This makes it difficult to diagnose the scrotal swelling as one can identify it only by looking at it.

Whom can it Affect?

Scrotal swelling in children can affect any boy from the age of 0 to adulthood. Even newborn babies suffer scrotal swelling. Though not painful in most cases, it would definitely make the child uncomfortable and worried.

Scrotal Swelling Causes:

So, let’s answer that nagging question in your mind. “What would cause a swollen testicle?”

There are a number of reasons that result in scrotal swelling in children. Though your doctor can always check and diagnose the reason behind the scrotal swelling, you need to be at least aware of the various possible reasons as a parent.

Scrotal swelling can be both painful and painless.

Painless Scrotal Swelling In Children:

If you are wondering what are the causes of painless scrotal swelling, here are some of the common scrotal swelling reasons:

1. Hydrocele

This is one of the most scrotal swelling causes in children. This condition arises when fluid builds up in the scrotum. This is not quite worrisome as it can subside on its own.

Even newborn baby boys are seen to experience this type of scrotum swelling. Though it may look scary due to the swelling, it is not painful. This type of scrotum swelling in children is more common in newborns than in older children.

What can possibly cause this swelling in a newborn?

In a male baby, the testicles are initially in the abdomen and move down to the scrotum area during the 9th month of pregnancy. Each of the testicles comes down with a sac filled with fluid. In normal circumstances, these sacs and the tunnel they descend through will seal off before birth. The fluid is supposed to be absorbed by the body.

When this process does not happen in time, a high possibility in premature births, a hydrocele occurs.

Types of Hydrocele

This harmless hydrocele is one of the scrotal swelling causes in children. There are two types of hydrocele:

  • Communicating Hydrocele – This is a condition wherein the sac with the testicles does not seal in time.
  • Non-Communicating Hydrocele – In this type of scrotum swelling in children, the sac will close as it should, but the body cannot absorb the liquid.

Symptoms

Since this type of scrotum swelling in children is quite common, you need to know the symptoms to look out for:

  • Either one or both the testicles of your boy will be swollen.
  • The swelling might remain the same in the case of a non-communicating hydrocele. However, in a communicating hydrocele, the swelling can go up each day.

2. Varicocele

When the veins in the scrotum are enlarged, it can result in some painless scrotal swelling. This scrotal swelling in children occurs more on the left side.

This type of scrotum swelling in children is more prevalent in boys just about to hit puberty. It is not so common in children below the age of 10. A varicocele can obstruct the growth of one of the testicles. If left unchecked, it can sometimes cause fertility issues.

3. Cysts

Cysts are small sacs of fluid that can form in any part of the body. Testicular tumors are very rare in young boys; hence you need not really worry about this type of scrotal swelling in children.

Painful Scrotal Swelling In Children:

The minute your child complains of pain, the parental antenna stands up on high alert. When it is the genital area, parents can be gripped by fear. Let’s take a look into the various scrotal swelling reasons that can cause pain or discomfort for your little boy.

1. Hernia

This is a condition in which an opening appears above the scrotum area, and some part of or fluid from the abdomen area drops into the scrotum area. Once a hernia occurs, it can happen again. The severity differs from case to case.

Sometimes just oral medicine and proper rest can solve the scrotum swelling in children. However, some of the more severe and rare cases may require surgery. The surgery will mostly push the parts back into their place and seal off the opening. This will ensure the hernia does not recur.

This type of scrotum swelling in children can be quite scary for a parent. Your child will be in pain, and the swelling might keep increasing. Instead of getting worked up and scaring your child more, take him to a doctor ASAP!

What causes such Hernias?

Many babies are born with a hernia, especially if they are premature. In older boys, if their groin area has some weakness or if they get injured around the genital area, it could cause a hernia.

2. Testicular Torsion

There is a cord that connects the testicles. When the testicles twist on this cord, the pain can be severe and very sudden. This is more common in young boys. This type of scrotal swelling can happen due to a direct hit to the groin or while playing sports. Scrotal Swelling

A sudden hit or movement can cause this type of scrotal swelling in children. It needs to be checked by a doctor immediately. In most cases, surgery will be required within the next 6 hours to reverse the twist.

This type of painful scrotal swelling can cut off the blood supply to the testicles. If not attended to immediately by a qualified medical professional, it can lead to very serious complications that can even threaten the fertility of the boy.

Children will play and get hit. There is no way you can stop or predict this as a parent. The only step you can take is to ensure your boy is well educated about this. He should be taught to be careful while playing and if hit, should not treat it lightly.

3. Testis Appendage Torsion

This scrotal swelling in children happens when a small sac above the testicles, twists. Understandably, the pain will be above the testicles or scrotum. Do not confuse this with abdominal pain. However, this kind of scrotal swelling can be treated with medicines that are easily available in pharmacies.

4. Infections

Some of the common infections that can cause scrotal swelling in children are ‘orchitis’ and ‘epididymitis’. These infections can be caused either by a virus or bacteria.

Orchitis – is a viral infection that can affect young boys, especially those suffering from mumps.

Epididymitis – generally caused by bacteria, this infects the ducts near the testicles that store the sperm. In young boys, this infection can be caused due to some urinary tract problems. In older boys, it can be caused due to unprotected sex.

5. Trapped in the Zip

This is a very common injury experienced by boys of all ages. When their penis gets stuck in the zipper of their pants, it can be excruciatingly painful. Though this may not cause scrotal swelling in children, swelling is a definite possibility in most cases.

6. Henoch-Schönlein Purpura

The cause of this kind of scrotal swelling in children is still unknown. The scrotal swelling can be quite painful. This is seen more in young boys rather than babies. In addition to the swelling, your boy can experience some rashes, joint pain, blood in urine, and also stomach pain.

How does a Doctor Diagnose Scrotal Swelling in Children?

Diagnosis of Swollen Scrotum In Children:

  • A physical exam is conducted wherein the abdomen, scrotum, and testicles are checked. This will help the doctor identify where the source of pain and swelling is.
  • A urine test is also taken to check for possible infections.
  •  An ultrasound may be taken to get a better look at the swelling and surrounding areas. An ultrasound can also help in picking tumors and other cysts.
  •  The medical history of the child is taken into consideration. This will help the doctor understand if your child has experienced anything related to this scrotal swelling in the past.

Can it be Cancer?

More often than not, parents find themselves asking this scary question. The minute you hear about a mass or unexplainable pain that recurs, cancer crosses many of our minds. No, you are not wrong to consider this possibility. However, the possibility of this particular outcome for the scrotal swelling in a child is rare.

Unless you have a family history of scrotum cancer or other types of cancer, you need not really worry about it. Get this doubt checked by all means. Unless you hear a no for this particular question, you won’t be able to rest as a parent.

All parents think of the worst possible scenarios when it comes to their child. It is quite natural. Just ensure you get your doubts clarified by a qualified medical professional and not by online information.

When is the Right Time to Call the Doctor for Scrotal Swelling in Children?

Right away! Yes, there are scrotal swellings that be eased with just medicines across the counter. But how sure are you about your diagnosis? What if you have overlooked a symptom and it leads to more complications due to the delay?

If the pain doesn’t subside or your boy shows new symptoms over time, do not wait to see only your doctor. Rush to the nearest pediatrician as tests may be required for the right diagnosis. Time taken by these tests can feel like forever when you have a crying child with you.

How to Treat Scrotal Swelling in Children?

Want to know about the possible scrotal swelling treatment your boy might receive?

1. Medicine

The scrotal swelling treatment depends on the cause. If the scrotal swelling is just because of bacteria, the doctor will most likely prescribe an anti-bacterial medicine. If the swelling is diagnosed as cancer, apart from cancer medicines, radiation will also be given.

2. Observation

In many cases, especially in infants, the doctor may need just to observe the scrotal swelling. Many times, such scrotal swelling in children go away on their own. The doctors will wait for this and only if it persists beyond a certain time, will they opt for other treatments.

3. Surgery

If the scrotal swelling is very painful, it needs to be attended to immediately. Testicular torsion or severe injury to the groin will require surgery to ensure more damage is not done. If it’s a hernia, an elective surgery option can be offered. If the hernia is bad and repetitive, surgery might be the only option.

Possible Complications of Scrotal Swelling in Children:

Every medical condition can have a complication if not looked into properly. When it comes to scrotal swelling in children, lack of treatment for severe cases like testicular torsion or varicocele can lead to testicular damage. When the testicles are damaged, it can affect the fertility of the boy. The chances of reproducing can be low to nil.scrotal swelling treatment

What Precautions can be Taken?

  • Protective Gear

    Many sports and especially contact sports have made it mandatory to wear a guard to protect the genital area of a male. If your son is playing any contact sport or cricket or football, ensure he wears a guard to protect his genitals. 

  • Educate your Boy

    An issue to the genital area like scrotal swelling in children can be quite delicate to discuss. If your boy is not too young and has crossed the age of running to a parent for every “boo-boo”, he might not be comfortable talking about his scrotum.

    Educate your child and provide a secure environment where he feels safe to discuss anything and everything no matter how old he is. Assure him that such scrotal swelling instances are common and one should not feel ashamed to talk about it.

    Teach him that the scrotum is just like any other part of his body and a doctor can fix issues there too. Also, teach him to be sensitive to other boys’ bodies. You don’t want your son causing a scrotal swelling to another child!

How to Teach Your Child About Scrotal Swelling?

Are you wondering how to broach upon the subject of scrotal swelling in children to your adolescent boy? Don’t know how to explain such complicated issues to your little one? Worry not. We got you! Here are a few ideas:

  • Books

Give your boy books about male reproductive organs if he is old enough to read all the tough words and understand complicated biology. If your boy is about to hit puberty, he will be outright uncomfortable to discuss scrotal swelling with his mother. Books can quench his questions and leave out the uncomfortable start or pauses in the discussion.

If your boy has more doubts or feels comfortable to come and discuss certain aspects with you, be sure to address his questions without flinching or laughing uncomfortably. The more confident and comfortable you are talking about this, he will be too.

  • Talk

If your child can’t read much or is more receptive to talks, talk to him. Talk to him about scrotal swelling in children and explain to him in simple terms. If he is too young to understand the impact, try animated conversations.

As a parent, you would be aware of what kind of talking will make your child more receptive. Talk in that manner and come up with little light moments to keep his interest intact.causes of scrotal swelling

  • Videos

Check for educational videos that throw light on scrotal swelling for children. Go through the video once to ensure there are no scary pictures. If you feel it is appropriate for your child, share it with him. You may or may not choose to sit with him while he watches.

  • Doctor

Do you have a family doctor who can patiently explain things to your son? Then ask the doctor to touch upon scrotal swelling in children and give an overview of other related topics. You and your son can continue the conversation or discussion on your way back home.

  • Safety Guidelines

Come up with safety guidelines and put them up near the entrance of your home. Let it be visible to your son on his way out to play. He will remember to be careful to avoid scrotal swelling. You can also repeat certain safety protocols to follow while playing outside the house. Hearing such advice repeatedly will make him more conscious about his own and other’s safety.

So, why would a child’s balls hurt? It can be any of the above or any other reason. Sometimes even doctors are unable to explain certain scrotal swelling in children.

Is scrotal swelling an emergency? It depends on the type of scrotal swelling, as discussed above. However, the best course of action to handle a scrotal swelling in the child is to get it checked. Be it a painful scrotal swelling or a painless scrotal swelling, let the doctor conduct a physical exam and diagnose.

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