Blue balls occurs when an erection lasts for an extended period of time without an orgasm. This is also known as epididymal hypertension. It can be uncomfortable, but usually isn’t serious.

Blue balls, known medically as epididymal hypertension (EH), can affect people with male genitals. It’s not serious, but can cause pain and aching in the testicles after having an erection without an orgasm.

EH symptoms affect the testicles and can include:

  • pain
  • discomfort
  • heaviness
  • aching

Despite the name “blue balls,” the testicles typically won’t turn blue. But if you can see a bluish or purplish hue on the testicles, this may be a sign of a more serious issue, testicular torsion.

When people with male sexual organs are aroused, the blood vessels to the penis and testicles expand to allow a greater volume of blood flow. Over time, this blood causes the penis to expand and stiffen, leading to an erection.

Typically, this blood is released after orgasm or as a result of decreased physical arousal. Too much blood may stay in the genital area of some people who become aroused for an extended period without a release or decrease of arousal. This could cause pain and discomfort.

Learn about random erections.

If you have pain and discomfort in the testicles only when you’re aroused, it may be a result of EH. If you regularly experience painful symptoms when not aroused, it may indicate another problem, like:

It may also be a sign of testicular torsion. This occurs because of a rapid twisting of the testicles and causes pain and swelling. This often requires emergency surgery.

Typically, you do not need to see a doctor or clinician about EH. If it’s causing you intense pain regularly or impeding your sexual performance, talk with your primary care doctor, urologist, or a sexual therapist.

If you experience strong, persistent testicular pain not associated with sexual activity, see your doctor. They can rule out other conditions that may be causing your pain.

You should also see your doctor if you have the following symptoms in addition to pain:

  • a lump or enlargement in either testicle
  • dull aching in the groin area
  • pain in the lower back

These symptoms may indicate a more serious problem, like testicular cancer.

Doctors and researchers have not studied EH extensively. There aren’t many established treatments for it. An older case study of a teenage boy suggests that the simplest, quickest remedy for blue balls is to ejaculate during an orgasm. One can achieve this through masturbation, oral sex, or protected sexual intercourse. After an orgasm, the pain will go away slowly.

Another quick remedy is to become unaroused. You can achieve this through a variety of ways, including:

  • taking a warm bath
  • getting exercise
  • distracting yourself
  • urinating

Exercise, like light jogging, may help because it can move the blood flow away from your testicles to your muscles.

Blue balls refers to the pain or heaviness caused by a delayed orgasm. Most males don’t regularly experience it, and it’s not generally serious.

Talk with your doctor or a sex therapist if EH causes you significant pain or affects the quality of your sex life. Consistent pain in the testicles, especially if it’s unrelated to sexual stimulation, may indicate a more serious problem if accompanied by other symptoms.

Learn about morning wood.