Undescended Testicles

This condition is fairly common in premature infants, less so in full-term infants. In most cases the testicles descend by the time the child is 6 months old. If not, it is unlikely to change further as the child grows.

What are Undescended Testicles?

Undescended testicles occur when one or both testicles fail to move into the scrotum before birth.

Sometimes a condition called retractile testes may be confused or mistaken with undescended testicles. In retractile testicles, the testicles are typically in good position, but rise higher with touch or anxiety of the exam. These testicles can be brought to the appropriate position on physical exam. Retractile testicles generally resolve as testicles grow and do not require surgery.

In other cases, such as vanished testis, no testicle may be found, even during a surgical procedure. This may be due to a problem that occurs while the baby was still developing in the womb.

What are the symptoms of Undescended Testicles?

The testicle cannot be found in the scrotum (this may be described as an empty scrotum). Adult males with an undescended testicle may have problems with fertility.

What causes Undescended Testicles?

The exact cause of an undescended testicle isn’t known. It is believed that genes, and/or the health of the baby’s mother during pregnancy might be contributors. They may disrupt the hormones, physical changes, and nerve activity, all of which play a role in how the testicles develop.

How are Undescended Testicles diagnosed?

During your child’s visit to Michigan Institute of Urology in Southeast Michigan, we will physically examine your child. In doing so we can usually confirm if one or both of the testicles are not present in the scrotum.

How are Undescended Testicles treated?

  • Under normal circumstances, the testicles should assume a normal scrotal position by the time the child is 6 months old. If not, then an undescended testicle is present.
  • Medical and/or hormonal treatments for undescended testicles are no longer recommended in the United States.
  • Surgery is the main treatment. Early surgery may prevent irreversible damage (e.g. infertility). Bringing the testicle into the scrotum maximizes sperm production and increases the chances of normal fertility. It also allows examination for early detection of testicular cancer.

Left untreated, undescended testicles may have an increased likelihood of developing cancer and potentially may also affect production of some hormones and sperm.

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