What is epididymitis?

Epididymitis is an infection of the coiled tube, called the epididymis. The epididymis sits at the back of the testicle. Its purpose is storing and moving sperm from the testicle to the penis for ejaculation.

penis-diagram-epi

How common is epididymitis?

Epididymitis is most common in men between the ages of 14 and 40. However, males of any age can get epididymitis.

What causes epididymitis?

In younger males who are not sexually active, epididymitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection. A urinary tract infection commonly is associated with epididymitis.

In males who are sexually active, epididymitis is most often caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Chlamydia and gonorrhea are commonly associated with epididymitis. It is important to avoid sexual intercourse if you have these symptoms to reduce the chance of spreading a possible sexually transmitted infection.

Although rare, epididymitis can be caused by surgery, specifically, prostatectomy, urinary catheterization and vasectomy.

What are the symptoms of epididymitis?

The most common symptoms of epididymis include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the scrotum (the sack under the penis, houses the testicles) that gradually gets worse
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination with an itching or burning sensation
  • A uncommon discharge from the penis
  • Fever and chills

It’s important to note that epididymis symptoms come on gradually. If you have a sudden, extreme pain, it could be a sign of testicular torsion. Due to the severity of testicular torsion, if you feel a sudden extreme pain you should visit the doctor immediately.

If you notice any changes in your testicles make sure to monitor them regularly and visit a doctor immediately if there is no improvement.

How is epididymitis diagnosed?

A doctor will likely make a number of checks for epididymitis.

A physical check of the testicles will initially help determine if there is swelling in the testicles and epididymis and will help rule out testicular torsion.

Samples will be taken of urine and any discharge from the penis to check for a urinary tract infection or bacterial infection (such as a STI).

To help rule out testicular torsion and testicular cancer a doctor may choose to take an ultrasound or MRI and test your blood.

How is epididymitis treated?

Antibiotics are the primary way to treat epididymitis in order to beat the infection.

To help alleviate some of the pain and swelling, painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs are often suggested. Additionally, elevating and applying a cold cloth to the scrotum can help relieve some of the pain.

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