The epididymis is a long, tightly coiled tube that lies above and behind each testicle. It collects and stores maturing sperm made by the testicles prior to ejaculation. Inflammation and infection of the epididymis is called epididymitis.
What causes epididymitis?
The causes of epididymitis vary depending on your age and behavior. In children it is most commonly associated with urinary tract infections. In young, sexually active men, it is often linked to sexually transmitted infection. And in older men it is often caused by enlargement of the prostate gland. Bacterial infections, possibly spread from the rectal area or following a urological procedure, also may cause epididymitis. And an injury to the groin may cause epididymitis.
What are the symptoms?
Pain, tenderness, and swelling in the scrotum (epididymides or testicles) that gradually get worse are the most common symptoms of epididymitis. Other symptoms may include fever and chills, frequent or painful urination, or a discharge from the penis.
How is epididymitis diagnosed?
Epididymitis is diagnosed using a physical exam and a medical history. A culture of discharge from the penis is done to check for a bacterial infection, such as a sexually transmitted infection. And a urinalysis and urine culture are done to check for a urinary tract infection. You may also have a blood test to check for an elevated white cell count and an ultrasound or nuclear medicine test to make sure that you do not have torsion of the testicle, an emergency condition that causes loss of blood flow to the testicles and requires urgent surgical treatment. These tests are also used to make sure that you do not have a tumor.
How is it treated?
If your doctor thinks it may be caused by a bacteria, he or she will treat you with antibiotics. Supportive measures, such as bed rest with elevation of the hips and anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen or ketoprofen), may help relieve discomfort caused by epididymitis.
If you have symptoms of epididymitis, reduce the risk of spreading a possible infection to your partner by avoiding sexual intercourse until you can be examined by your doctor. It is important for sex partners to be evaluated and treated for a possible infection.