Approximately 1 in 1,000 men develop epididymitis each year in the United States, and acute problems drive more than 600,000 visits to health care providers each year. If you’ve never heard of epididymitis, that’s good news, but it’s still worth understanding this fairly common issue so that you can take early action.
At our practice, Dr. Robert J. Cornell specializes in the many health issues that can affect a man’s reproductive system, and epididymitis is the fifth most common condition that we urologists encounter.
Whether or not you have any experience with epididymitis, here’s what you should know about this condition.
At its core, epididymitis describes inflammation in your epididymis, which is a small coiled tube located behind your testicle that stores and carries sperm. After being produced in each of your testicles, your sperm moves into the epididymis located behind each testicle. During this transition, your sperm become mature and acquire more mobility, readying them to enter into your ejaculatory ducts.
Behind the inflammation
The inflammation that's caused by epididymitis is typically caused by infection-causing bacteria that gain entrance into the small tube. In most cases, these bacteria are associated with sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea, which start in your urethra. As well, the problem may arise as a result of a urinary tract infection.
Outside of these infections, epididymitis may be caused by an enlarged prostate, an infection in your prostate, or a blockage in your urethra, including a catheter. As well, if urine leaks backward into your epididymis, it can lead to inflammation.
In other words, epididymitis doesn’t always stem from a bacterial infection, but no matter how the problem develops, the end result is often painful inflammation.
Symptoms of epididymitis
The primary symptom of epididymitis is testicular pain and tenderness. You may also experience visible redness or swelling in your scrotal sac, which may also be warmer to the touch.
Other symptoms of epididymitis include:
- Pain while urinating
- Penile discharge
- A frequent urge to urinate
- General pelvic or abdominal pain
In most cases, these symptoms come on quickly when the condition is caused by an acute problem like a bacterial infection.
Where epididymitis can get complicated is when it turns chronic, which means you have ongoing problems with inflammation that don’t respond to a quick course of antibiotics. In these cases, it requires that we take a much closer look to identify the underlying cause.
As we mentioned above, if your epididymitis is due to a bacterial infection, we quickly get you set up with antibiotics, which should remedy the infection and the inflammation in short order.
If your epididymitis doesn’t clear up with antibiotics, we may give you anti-inflammatory medications for your comfort while we investigate further. In very rare cases, such as an untreated infection, we may recommend surgical removal of your epididymis.
If you suspect you have epididymitis or you’d like to learn more, please contact our office in Houston, Texas, to set up an appointment.