Types | Causes | Diagnosis | Treatment | Surgery related info
A hydrocele testis is the accumulation of fluids around a testicle, and is fairly common. It is often caused by fluid secreted from a remnant piece of peritoneum wrapped around the testicle, called the tunica vaginalis. Provided there is no hernia present, hydrocoeles below the age of 1 year usually resolve spontaneously. Primary hydrocoeles may develop in adulthood, particularly in the elderly, particularly common in hot countries, by slow accumulation of serous fluid, presumably caused by impaired reabsorption, which appears to be the explanation for most primary hydroceles although the reason remains obscure.A hydrocele can also be the result of a plugged inguinal lymphatic system caused by repeated, chronic infection of Wuchereria bancrofti or Brugia malayi, two mosquito-borne parasites of Africa and Southeast Asia, respectively. As such, the condition would be a part of more diffuse sequelae commonly referred to as elephantiasis, which also affects the lymphatic system in other parts of the body.
Causes of Hydroceles
Communicating hydrocele, caused by the failure of the processus vaginalis closure.
A hydrocele can be produced in four ways:
The swelling is soft and non-tender, large in size on examination and the testis cannot usually be felt. The presence of fluid is demonstrated by trans illumination. These hydrocoeles can reach a huge size, containing large amount of fluid, as these are painless and are often ignored. They are otherwise asymptomatic, other than size and weight, causing inconvenience. However the long continued presence of large hydroceles causes atrophy of testis due to compression or by obstructing blood supply. In most cases, the hydrocoele, when diagnosed early during complete physical examination, are small and the testis can easily be palpated within a lax hydrocele but a Ultrasound imaging is necessary to visualize the testis if the hydrocele sac is dense, to reveal the primary abnormality. But these can become large in cases when left unattended. Hydroceles are usually painless, as are testicular tumors. A common method of diagnosing a hydrocele is by attempting to shine a strong light (transillumination) through the enlarged scrotum. A hydrocele will usually pass light, while a tumor will not (except in the case of a malignancy with reactive hydrocele).
Secondary hydrocele due to testicular diseases, can be the result of, cancer, trauma (such as a hernia), or orchitis (inflammation of testis), and can also occur in infants undergoing peritoneal dialysis. A hydrocele is not a cancer but it should be excluded clinically if a presence of a testicular tumor is suspected, however, there are no publications in the world literature that report a hydrocele in association with testicular cancer. Secondary hydrocele is most frequently associated with acute or chronic epididymo-orchitis. It is also seen with torsion of the testis and with some testicular tumors. A secondary hydrocele is usually lax and of moderate size: the underlying testis is palpable. A secondary hydrocele subsides when the primary lesion resolves.
In infants and children, a hydrocoele is usually an expression of a patent processus vaginalis (PPV). The tunica and the processus vaginalis are distended to the inguinal ring but there is no connection with the peritoneal cavity.
The processus vaginalis is patent and connects with the general peritoneal cavity. The communication is usually too small to allow herniation of intra-abdominal contents. Digital pressure on the hydrocele does not usually empty it, but the hydrocele fluid may drain into the peritoneal cavity when the child is lying down. Ascites or even ascitic tuberculous peritonitis should be considered if the swellings are bilateral.
Encysted hydrocele of the cord
There is a smooth oval swelling near the spermatic cord which is liable to be mistaken for an inguinal hernia. The swelling moves downwards and becomes less mobile if the testis is pulled gently downwards. Rarely, a hydrocoele develops in a remnant of the processus vaginalis somewhere along the course of the spermatic cord. This hydrocoele also transilluminates, and is known as an encysted hydrocoele of the cord.