Definition - What does Epididymitis mean?

Epididymitis is inflammation of the epididymis. The epididymis is a portion of the male sexual reproductive system that houses and transfers sperm once it has been developed by the testes and before it is expelled from the penis. Typically caused by sexually transmitted infections, epididymitis may require antibiotics to treat. If left untreated, or if experienced chronically, epididymitis can impact a man's fertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Epididymitis

Symptoms of epididymitis worsen over time. Initially, it may cause mild discomfort. However, if untreated, the condition may become severely painful.

  • Pain in testicles
  • Pressure in testicles
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Warmth or redness in the scrotum
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Painful ejaculation or intercourse
  • Painful urination or bowel movements
  • Blood in semen
  • Low-grade fever
  • Chills

Epididymitis is most common in men 14-35, however, it can impact males of any age. In childhood, epididymitis is typically caused by a urinary tract infection or trauma to the testicles. In adults, epididymitis is usually caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea, which causes an infection of the urethra, which spreads to the epididymis. Other risk factors include:

  • Uncircumcised penis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Enlarged prostate
  • History of a groin injury
  • Use of a urinary catheter

Epididymitis is diagnosed through several steps. A physical exam is conducted to check for swollen testicles and lymph nodes in the groin, along with penis discharge. A rectal exam may be conducted to check for an enlarged prostate. Blood tests may evaluate for infection and urine samples can indicate a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted infection. Imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan may be used to check for trauma or other conditions.

Treatment for epididymis includes:

  • Antibiotics
  • Over the counter pain medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medication

Untreated epididymitis or chronic epididymitis can threaten a man's ability to contribute to a pregnancy. As the disorder worsens, scar tissue builds up in the seminal tract, blocking the flow of sperm from the testes. The blockage prevents the sperm from reaching the urethra and being transported out of the body during ejaculation. If the sperm are able to pass through the scar tissue, there is still a chance of damage to the motility of the sperm.

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