One condition that can result in sperm health problems is epididymitis; in fact, epididymitis can sometimes lead to serious male fertility problems. There are a variety of different causes of epididymitis, which has both chronic and acute forms. However, epididymitis treatment can help alleviate common symptoms of this condition.
What is Epididymitis?
Epididymitis is a condition in which the epididymis, the small coiled tube located at the back of the testicle, becomes inflamed. This leads to pain and swelling in the scrotum, the loose bag of skin located underneath the penis.
The epididymis is the location in which the sperm is stored so as to undergo the final stages of maturation. When infection occurs as in the case of epididymitis, the epididymis malfunctions, creating a hostile environment for sperm.
This condition is most common among men ages 19 to 35.
Common symptoms of this condition are:
- swollen, painful testicles
- swelling and/or tenderness in one or both testicles
- mild to severe scrotal pain
- painful urination
- blood in the semen
- discharge from the penis
- tenderness in the groin
Epididymitis has two forms: acute and chronic. In acute epididymitis, symptoms have a sudden onset and are quite severe, but go away on their own within a day or two. In chronic epididymitis, symptoms have a gradual onset and the condition is usually a recurrence of a previously untreated episode. Treatments can minimize symptoms; however, symptoms are usually not completely cleared.
Causes of Epididymitis
Several different types of pathogens can cause this sperm health condition.
The most common cause of epididymitis is a bacterial infection that spreads from the bladder or the urethra, the tube that drains urine from the bladder.
A number of other types of pathogens can contribute to the development of epididymitis, including those that transmit sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For example, Chlamydia and gonorrhea can contribute to the development of this condition, as can a urinary tract infection (UTI).
There are several factors that can increase your risk of epididymitis, including:
- sex without a condom
- sex with a partner with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- personal history of STDs
- multiple sex partners
Complications of Epididymitis
Complications of this condition include:
- chronic epididymitis
- shrinkage of affected testicle (atrophy)
- scrotal abscess (infected tissue fills with pus)
- impaired fertility (rare)
Three types of tests can help diagnose epididymitis:
- STD screening: this diagnostic test collects a urethra discharge sample, which is then analyzed in the lab for irregularities
- ultrasound imaging: assesses blood flow to the epididymis; a high blood flow means that epididymitis is usually present
- nuclear scan of the testicles: in this test, trace amounts of radioactive material are injected into the blood, which is then tested for increased blood flow to assess for epididymitis
Different types of epididymitis require different types of care:
acute: requires bed rest, antibiotics, the use of a scrotal support (supporter), as well as oral anti-inflammatory drugs.
chronic: because the symptoms of chronic epididymitis often persist after preliminary treatment, this condition usually requires a second round of therapy. In addition, a prescription for long-term anti-inflammatory medications is usually recommended.
In rare cases, surgery is used to treat epididymitis. There are two types of epididymitis surgery, both of which lead to sterility. In an epididymectomy, the epididymis is removed via a small incision. In a bilateral vasectomy, the fluid and semen are prevented from entering the epididymis. Both are performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis, and require a period of recovery care.