Orchitis refers to the inflammation of one or both testicles, the sperm producing organs in males. Typically, it causes swelling and pain of the testicles that presents discomfort while performing daily activities. Infections, both viral and bacterial, are the leading causes of orchitis. Males, who suffer from recurrent urinary infections, are more likely to develop the condition. Spread of infection through sexual contact or inflammation of the sperm-carrying tube (epididymis) may cause testicles to appear red and swollen. Orchitis can be completely cured with proper medications. In some cases, surgery is also recommended.
Common symptoms of orchitis include:
- Swelling or tenderness in one or both testicles
- Pain in the testicles while sitting or during bowel movements
- Painful urination or sexual intercourse
- Blood-mingled discharge from penis
- Fever and nausea
If left unattended, orchitis can also lead to infertility, scrotal abscess or may pose problems for blood supply to the testicles.
Causes of orchitis can be diverse ranging from common infections to gene defects. Broadly, causes of orchitis are grouped according to their mode of transmission:
- Non-sexually transmitted
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), particularly by gonorrhea or chlamydia, are the main cause of infections. Bacterial infections cause inflammation of the sperm-carrying tube (epididymis). The inflammation may gradually spread from the tube and affect the testicles, making them swollen. This condition is usually termed as epididymo-orchitis.
An infection of the urethra or urinary bladder can also affect epididymis. Any medical condition that requires insertion of a catheter in the urinary passage could also harbor bacterial infection. Having multiple sex-partners or a personal history of STD increases your risk of contracting sexually-transmitted orchitis.
Orchitis developed during viral infections or due to genetic diseases are usually not contagious or transferable. Mumps virus is the common cause of viral orchitis. Most males who contract the mumps after puberty develop orchitis during their course of disease. However, scrotal swelling that occurs during the viral infection often gets resolved on its own within 10 days. Individuals, not vaccinated against mumps, are more prone to develop orchitis.
Congenital conditions like inguinal hernia may also present swollen testicles. However, in such cases inflammation is not the major cause.
Treatment mainly aims at relieving pain and related discomfort. The treatment approach usually depends on the causal factors as well as the stage of the disease. Applying ice-packs or taking rest provides immediate relief in milder cases.
Apart from pain, medications are also prescribed to combat infections and related inflammation. Antibiotics including ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline and azithromycin are usually recommended for bacterial infections, either alone or in different combinations.
Pain-relieving medications along with anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen prove effective against viral symptoms. However, taking rest offers best remedy for viral diseases.
For effective outcomes in case of STD-related orchitis, proper planning of treatment along with lifestyle advice given to the patient is necessary. Moreover, in such cases the patient’s partner(s) should also be tested and treated. Mumps vaccinations have greatly reduced the incidence of orchitis associated with this virus.