Overview of Hydrocele

Hydroceles occur in males only. The testes, or testicles, are the two male reproductive glands that produce sperm and the male hormone testosterone. They are located in the scrotum, which is a pouch located behind the penis. A hydrocele is an abnormal fluid-filled sac around the testes that causes the scrotum to swell.

Hydroceles can occur on either side of the scrotum or, in rarer cases, on both sides. While hydroceles are benign (mild and not progressive) and usually painless, they should be brought to a doctor's attention because they sometimes can signify a more serious condition related to the testes.

There are two types of hydroceles: communicating and non-communicating. Communicating hydroceles have an open connection between the scrotum and abdomen. Non-communicating hydroceles are enclosed with no connection.

Incidence and Prevalence of Hydrocele

Hydroceles most commonly affect males in two age groups, but they can develop at any age. About 10% of male infants (particularly premature babies) are born with a hydrocele. The condition also may occur in boys between the ages of 2 and 5, usually as a result of inflammation of the testis or epididymis (structure located on top of each testis). Older men (typically over the age of 40) can develop a hydrocele, often following an injury in the scrotal area.

Publication Review By: William Belville, M.D., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 23 Jul 2007

Last Modified: 20 May 2011