The testicles are the main parts in a men’s reproductive and endocrine systems. These small oval-shaped glands produce steroid and peptide hormones (androgens) and are responsible for the sperm release. Thus, such twin gonads help a male stay brutal, hairy, and sexually active. An impaired testicular function is fraught with hormonal imbalance, erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and infertility.
What are the most typical testicular problems?
Fortunately, there are just a few of them.
The testes may malfunction under:
- Epididymitis (inflammation or infection in testicles induced by bacteria);
- Hypogenitalism (an inadequate development or deficient activity of the gonads, also known as hypogonatism);
- Inverted testis or testicular torsion –when a testicle rotates around a spermatic cord;
- Physical testicular trauma;
- Testicular cancer.
Let’s have a closer look at the testicular function problems and their possible treatments.
This is an inflammation of the epididymis, a coiled tube which transfers semen from the gonads to the spermatic duct. Such a testicular condition can be induced by STIs (Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, etc.), non-sexually transmitted bacteria, the tuberculosis infection or urine retention. The use of some heart drugs such as Amiodarone may also lead to epididymitis.
Symptoms of this testicular problem include the reddening or swelling of a scrotum, acute pain in one or both testes, troubled urination, purulent discharge from a penis, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), a lump on a testicle, lower abdominal pain, a feeling of heaviness in the groin, painful ejaculation accompanied with blood in the seminal fluid.
To treat epididymitis, a doctor may prescribe a man to take antibiotics (Doxycycline, Ciprofloxacin), anti-inflammatory meds (Piroxicam), and painkillers (Ibuprofen). It is also advisable to apply ice on the testicles to abate the swelling.
If left unmanaged, epididymitis forms scar tissue that may prevent the spermatic fluid from getting away from the testicles leading to infertility.
This is a testicular disease under which the gonads do not generate a sufficient amount of androgens (sex hormones). There are two types of hypogenitalism: primary hypogenitalism (when testes are mechanically injured or underdeveloped) and central hypogenitalism (under which hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain cannot send messages to the gonads to secrete hormones).
Such a testicular illness may be associated with autoimmune disorders, genetic conditions, radiation exposure, pelvic surgery, renal and hepatic impairments, HIV and AIDS, inflammatory diseases, the pituitary gland dysfunction. Some mental health medications may cause hypogenitalism as well.
A medical professional can recognize hypogenitalism in men by the following symptoms and complaints: weak erection, decreased sexual drive, body hair thinning, loss of bone or muscular mass, enlarged breasts with milky discharge, emotional instability (irritability, depression, aggression), fat gaining, and difficult concentration.
To treat hypogenitalism in male patients, a doctor may recommend the hormone replacement therapy, when a person takes medications containing the hormone which is deficient in the body. It can be a treatment with progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, or pituitary hormones. The hormone replacement therapy can be delivered via injections, skin patches, pills or special gel for the outward application.
Another malady which can badly affect male sex glands is testicular torsion – a medical condition under which a spermatic cord (a bundle of vessels, nerves, and ducts that suspends the testicles and epididymis) gets twisted around the gonad impairing an adequate testicular blood supply. This ailment is characterized by an intense pain in the scrotum or abdominal area, swelling, enlargement, darkening, and tenderness in the testes, difficult or delayed urination.
As a rule, inverted testis has an inherited trait but sometimes it may occur after vigorous physical activity or as a result of an injury of the genital organs.
To correct a twisted spermatic cord, immediate surgery interference under general anesthesia is required. During the operation, a doctor makes a tiny cut in a scrotum, untwists a spermatic cord, and stitches one or both glands to the inside of the scrotum, when necessary.
Obviously, testes are not protected by bones and muscles because they locate in a scrotum – an external genital organ. For this reason, male gonads are very vulnerable and can be easily hit, damaged or struck.
When a physical testicular trauma happens, a patient is usually required to wear a scrotal support to minimize the scrotal mobility and prevent the injury aggravation. A healthcare provider may also prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory preparations (Diclofenac, Ketoprofen, Naproxen) to relieve the edema of a scrotum and provide the alleviation of pain. Cold packs on the groin and bed rest for 2-3 days can also be a proper way out.
Accounting for approximately 1 % of cancer in men aging from 18 to 35 in Canada, testicular cancer can originate from cryptorchidism (an abnormality in the sexual development when a gonad is not located in a scrotum), HIV infection, benign tumors or Klinefelter syndrome.
Symptoms of testicular cancer involve a pulling sensation in the groin, a lump or enlargement in a gonad, a persistent pain in the lower abdominal area, groin or back, breasts enlargement, and collection of fluid in a scrotum.
Unlike other types of cancer, testicular cancer is highly manageable. Surgery invasion, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, a testicular prosthesis, retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, stem cell transplant are effectively used to eradicate cancer in a testicle. Notably that the removal of one testicle does not result in problems with erection or fertility. The remaining gland always continues producing sperm and the sex hormones allowing a man to lead a fulfilling life.