Testicles are an egg-shaped gland inside the scrotum and at the back of the penis. It is also known as the man’s balls. Testicles play a big role in the male puberty and human reproduction as it produces sperm and hormones such as testosterone. A normal male will have two testicles and you should feel the testicle smooth. Having a slight difference between the left and right of testicle should not raise concerns as one testicle might be a bit bigger or hanging a bit lower than the other. However, medicine may be needed in certain circumstances, especially when it causes symptoms such as with orchitis disease.
Orchitis is inflammation of the testis or the testicle. It is worth noting that it is rare for orchitis to occur alone as it is often accompanied by inflammation of the epididymis (duct-like organs storing sperm) known as epididymitis. Thus, you may have heard more on epididymo-orchitis. The number of true cases of orchitis is unclear since it is uncommon for orchitis alone to occur. Orchitis mostly occurs in young male.
Orchitis is most often caused by viral infection of mumps virus. The virus travels to the testes via the blood circulation system. A quarter of orchitis cases are caused by mumps with 80% in male aged below 10 years old. Another virus that can cause orchitis is rubella. There are even reported cases of orchitis following the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Orchitis may also be caused by bacterial infection. Bacterial orchitis often as a latter of severe epididymitis. In men aged 14 to 35 years old, ependymitis is commonly caused by sexually transmitted infections of gonorrhoea or chlamydia. Male younger than 14 or older than 35 years old may have had infected with bacteria responsible for urinary tract infection.
Symptoms initially or mainly are the pain that comes quickly. Pain often affects one side of the testis. It is then accompanied by inflammation signs such as swelling and redness of the testicle area. These symptoms occur around 4 to 7 days after swelling of the salivary glands (parotid) caused by mumps. In 30% of cases of orchitis, the disease spreads to the other testicles around a day or up to a week after the initial symptoms to the one side of the testis. Apart from localised symptoms of the testicle, patients may complain of fever, headache, tiredness and muscle ache (myalgia). Symptoms are similar even if it is caused by other infectious agents apart from mumps virus but may vary in intensity and period of time.
Orchitis is typically diagnosed from a patient’s medical history and physical examination. Laboratory tests such as urine samples or urethral swabs may be needed to evaluate the source of the infections. Imaging tests such as Doppler ultrasound is often used to differentiate other diseases such as testicular torsion that may have almost the same symptoms with orchitis.
Treatment is mainly aimed to ease symptoms. Thus, what doctors recommend is for patients to get enough rest and to take pain relief. Using hot or cold packs can ease the pain and the inflamed testicles. Antibiotics are only prescribed when there is evidence of bacterial infection. It is important to get checked by a doctor when there are symptoms related to orchitis so that doctors can ensure it is not a serious issue. This is because disease such as testicular torsion may cause similar symptoms to orchitis but it is considered as an emergency medical condition.
You probably wonder if there are treatments you can do by yourself. Natural treatment may be on your mind when thinking of treating orchitis by yourself. There are actually ways to treat orchitis naturally but remember, you must always consult with a doctor first before doing so. Below are ways on treating orchitis naturally:
- Use ice pack to ease swelling
- Sitting in warm bath after swelling subside
- Use scrotal support such as jockstrap or spandex short
- Eating anti-inflammatory food such yoghurt
- Add more anti-inflammatory ingredient to food such as turmeric, garlic and olive oil
- Avoid lifting heavy objects
- Avoid sexual intercourse to minimise risk for infection
In most cases of orchitis, a good treatment can heal the condition without complications. Swelling, tenderness or ache may still be around even after finishing antibiotics course but should be getting better significantly. This discomfort may persist for around 2 to 4 weeks but it does not mean infection returned. If symptoms become worse or persist even after treatment, it is best to get checked by a doctor as these may be signs of other conditions. Most cases of orchitis caused by mumps go away within 10 days. It is important to get the right treatment as to be left untreated may cause complications such as shrinking testicle (testicular atrophy) and fertility issues.