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Patient education: Epididymitis (The Basics)

Patient education: Epididymitis (The Basics)

What is epididymitis? — Epididymitis is the term doctors use when the epididymis gets inflamed. The epididymis is a small structure that sits on top of the testicle (figure 1). The epididymis stores sperm and moves it along the reproductive tract.

Different infections and conditions can cause epididymitis. In people who are having sex, epididymitis is commonly caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. These are 2 different infections that people can catch during sex.

Epididymitis can also be caused by other conditions or infections that aren't spread through sex. These things are more likely to cause epididymitis in older people.

What are the symptoms of epididymitis? — Epididymitis causes pain in the testicles or scrotum. The scrotum is the skin sac around the testicles.

Besides pain, epididymitis can also cause:

Swelling of the scrotum or testicles

Redness of the scrotum

Fever

Should I see my doctor or nurse? — Yes. See your doctor or nurse if you have pain or swelling in your testicles or scrotum.

If your pain is severe, and your doctor or nurse can't see you right away, you should go to the emergency department.

Is there a test for epididymitis? — Yes. Your doctor or nurse will ask about your symptoms and do an exam. They will also probably do:

Urine tests

An ultrasound of your scrotum – An ultrasound is a type of imaging test. It uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of your body.

Lab tests – If you have discharge from your urethra (the opening in your penis where urine leaves your body), your doctor or nurse will take a sample of the discharge. They will send the sample to a lab for tests.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. To help with the pain and swelling, you can:

Put a cold gel pack, bag of ice, or bag of frozen vegetables on the area every few hours, for 15 minutes each time

Wear a jock strap to support your scrotum

Take an over-the-counter medicine to treat your pain. Over-the-counter medicines include acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol), ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (sample brand name: Aleve).

What other treatment might I need? — Other treatment depends on what's causing your epididymitis.

If a bacterial infection is causing your epididymitis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic medicines. These antibiotics can usually be taken at home, but a severe infection might need treatment in the hospital.

If you are treated for chlamydia or gonorrhea, you should tell the person you most recently had sex with. You should also tell anyone you have had sex with in the past 2 to 3 months. They might also be infected (even if they have no symptoms) and need treatment.

Can epididymitis be prevented? — You can help prevent epididymitis that is caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea by:

Using a latex condom every time you have sex

Avoiding sex when you or your partner has genital itching, discharge, or other symptoms that could be caused by an infection

Not having sex

More on this topic

Patient education: Chlamydia and gonorrhea (The Basics)
Patient education: Screening for sexually transmitted infections (The Basics)
Patient education: Teen sexuality (The Basics)

Patient education: Gonorrhea (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Chlamydia (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Adolescent sexuality (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Oct 01, 2023.
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