Orchitis: Causes, Risk Factors & Symptoms
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Orchitis

What Is Orchitis?

Orchitis is an inflammation of the testicles. It can be caused by either bacteria or a virus.

Both testicles may be affected by orchitis at the same time. However, the symptoms are usually in just one testicle.

This kind of testicular inflammation is often associated with the mumps virus.

Symptoms and Signs of Orchitis

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Pain in the testicles and groin is the primary symptom of orchitis. You may also have:

  • tenderness in the scrotum
  • painful urination
  • painful ejaculation
  • a swollen scrotum
  • blood in the semen
  • abnormal discharge
  • an enlarged prostate
  • swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • a fever

Causes of Orchitis

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A virus or bacteria can cause orchitis.

The most common cause of viral orchitis is the mumps. Mumps is a viral childhood disease that’s rare in the United States due to effective immunization programs. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 33 percent of men who get the mumps as teens also develop orchitis. Viral orchitis related to the mumps develops anywhere from four to 10 days after the salivary glands swell. Salivary gland swelling is a symptom of the mumps.

Bacterial infection can also lead to orchitis in males. Urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and a related condition called epididymitis can result in orchitis, too. Epididymitis is an inflammation of the epididymis. This is the tube in which sperm is stored that connects the testicles to the vas deferens.

Risk Factors for Orchitis

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People who engage in high-risk sexual behavior may be more likely to develop orchitis. High-risk sexual behavior includes:

  • having sexual intercourse without condoms
  • having a history of STIs
  • having a partner who has an STI

Congenital urinary tract abnormalities can also increase your risk of orchitis. This means you’re born with structural problems involving your bladder or urethra.

Diagnosing Orchitis

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Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and your symptoms. They’ll perform a physical examination to determine the extent of the inflammation.

You may need a prostate examination to see if your prostate is inflamed. This involves your doctor inserting a finger into your rectum to physically examine the prostate.

Your doctor may ask for a urine sample and swab any discharge for lab analysis. This can determine if you have STIs or other infections.

Ultrasound imaging can rule out testicular torsion. Testicular torsion is another condition that causes extreme pain in the testicles and groin area, and the symptoms are often confused with those of orchitis. Testicular torsion is the twisting of the spermatic cord, a network of nerves and blood vessels that runs into each testicle. It can threaten your fertility if it interrupts blood flow to your testicles.

Treatment Options

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There’s no cure for viral orchitis, but the condition will go away on its own. In the meantime, you can use remedies at home to manage your symptoms. Pain relievers, ice packs, and elevation of the testicles when possible can make you more comfortable.

Bacterial orchitis is treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and cold packs. Regardless of the source of your inflammation, full recovery can take several weeks.

Abstain from sexual intercourse and heavy lifting while you treat orchitis. If you’re infected with an STI, your partner will need treatment, too.

Long-Term Outlook

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Most men suffering from orchitis recover completely with no lasting effects. Orchitis rarely causes infertility. Other complications are also rare but can include:

  • chronic inflammation of the epididymis
  • an abscess or blister within the scrotum
  • shrinking of the affected testicle
  • the death of testicular tissue

Preventing Orchitis

Some cases of orchitis cannot be prevented. This is especially true if you suffer from congenital urinary tract problems. You can, however, protect yourself against certain types of viral orchitis. Vaccinate yourself and your children against mumps to reduce your risk of contracting orchitis.

Practicing safe sex can help prevent bacterial orchitis. Use a condom and ask your partner about their sexual history.

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