Cryptorchidism is an unfortunate condition characterized by the testicles not descending into the scrotum. If left untreated, cryptorchidism can lead to more problematic medical conditions.
Whether cryptorchidism is congenital or acquired during adulthood, it needs to be treated to avoid complications. If your testicles remain in your groin, you may need to have a surgery to relocate your testicles inside your scrotum. Read on to know more about the dangers of undescended testicles.
#1 Testicular Cancer
More often than not, testicular cancer begins with the germ cells. These are the testicular cells that are responsible for producing immature sperm. Men who suffer from cryptorchidism have higher risks of testicular cancer compared to men whose testicles have descended into their scrotum.
In some cases of cryptorchidism, the testicles are located in the abdomen. For men who have this type of cryptorchidism, their risks of developing testicular cancer are even higher compared to men who have cryptorchidism whose testicles are located in the groin. This is especially true if both testicles are undescended.
In truth, testicular cancer is quite rare. However, for American men between 15 and 35 years of age, testicular cancer is actually the most common type of cancer. Aside from cryptorchidism, abnormal testicular development can also cause testicular cancer.
Symptoms of testicular cancer include swelling on either or both testicles. You may also feel pain or numbness in your scrotum. The feel of the testicles inside the scrotum can also change, wherein one testicle can become bigger or firmer than the other.
You may also feel a lump on your testicle, or fluids may start building up inside your scrotum. In some cases, testicular cancer can cause breast tenderness or even gynecomastia.
If your testicles are undescended, your risks of infertility will increase. You will most likely experience low sperm counts as well as poor sperm quality. The ideal environment for your testicles is one wherein the temperature is two or three degrees lower compared to your body temperature.
Inside your scrotum, the temperature is just right for your testicles. However, if your testicles remain inside your abdomen or groin, the temperature will be higher. Your testicles won’t necessarily burn or get fried, but such high temperatures can lead to impaired sperm production.
In men who have cryptorchidism, germ cell maturation is usually impaired. Since the germ cells are the ones that produce immature sperm cells, when cryptorchidism is untreated,it can cause infertility due to low sperm count.
In fact, bilateral cryptorchidism is one of the most common causes of azoospermia, a condition wherein the semen does not contain any sperm. This means that men who have azoospermia are absolutely infertile since they don’t ejaculate any sperm cell at all.
Almost 90% of men who have both testicles undescended suffer from azoospermia. For those who only have one undescended testicle, the prevalence of azoospermia is lower than 20%.
#3 Testicular Torsion
In men, the spermatic cord contains nerves and blood vessels. Inside the spermatic cord, you will also find the tube that is responsible for transporting semen from your testicle to your penis. Testicular torsion is a serious condition which occurs when your spermatic cord becomes twisted.
This could result in the blood supply to your testicles being cut off. When your testicles are not getting enough blood, your testicular cells can start dying. If not corrected right away, you might end up losing your testicles.
For men with cryptorchidism, testicular torsion is ten times more likely to happen compared to men who have normal testicles. However, testicular torsion may also happen to men with normal testicles. In fact, testicular torsion is one of the most common types of urologic emergencies.
If you start feeling swelling or pain in your scrotal sac, this could mean that your spermatic cord has become twisted. You may also feel lumps inside your scrotal sac. Other symptoms of testicular torsion include nausea and vomiting. You may also see blood mixed with your semen.
You should head straight to the hospital as soon as you observe or feel any of these symptoms. If you leave a twisted spermatic cord alone for more than six hours, your testicular tissue will start dying because it’s no longer receiving any oxygen-rich blood.
#4 Inguinal Hernia
During fetal development, the testicles are formed in the abdomen. During the baby’s eighth or ninth month in the womb, the testicles gradually descend. Premature boys often exhibit cryptorchidism, since they were already born before their testicles started descending.
The testicles should move from the abdomen down to the groin and into the scrotum through a tube called the inguinal canal. If the testicles don’t leave the groin, the pubic bone can press down on it. The pressure can cause damage to the testicles.
In addition, if the intestines also push into the groin, this can result in an inguinal hernia. This can happen if opening between the inguinal and the abdomen is loose. If the protruding intestine goes into your scrotum, you may experience a lot of pain.
You may also experience swelling around your testicles. Burning sensations and experiencing pain when coughing, bending, or lifting something up are also common symptoms of an inguinal hernia.
Treatments For Cryptorchidism
The surgical procedure used to treat cryptorchidism is called orchidopexy. Through this procedure, the undescended testicles are freed and then implanted in the scrotum. For those with congenital cryptorchidism, orchidopexy is typically done when the male infant is still between six to eighteen months old.
Most doctors recommend that orchidopexy be done as early as possible. This is because when cryptorchidism is left untreated for a long time, the chances of developing infertility or testicular cancer increase.
If an inguinal hernia is present, the doctor typically repairs that as well during orchidopexy. The inguinal canal is also closed off so that the testicles won’t go back up to the groin or abdomen. There are also instances wherein hormone treatment is employed. Human chorionic gonadotropin is used to cause the testicles to descend to the scrotum.