Epididymitis is the inflamation and infection of the epididymis, the long, tightly coiled tube that lies above and behind each testicle. Epididymitis is most often caused by sexually transmitted infections. Antibiotics are used to treat epididymitis.
For more information on symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention see the Overview section.
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. Sexually transmitted infections cause most cases of epididymitis in men younger than age 35. Less than 1% of men with an STI will get epididymitis.
Epididymitis usually starts suddenly. Symptoms can include pain, tenderness and swelling in the scrotum, frequent or painful urination, fever or chills, and a discharge from the penis.
Sudden onset of intense pain in one testicle is a medical emergency. It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible.
The causes of epididymitis vary depending on your age and behaviour. In children, it is most commonly associated with urinary tract infections. In young, sexually active men it is often associated with sexually transmitted infections, and in older men with enlargement of the prostate gland. Epididymitis can also be caused by bacterial infections (possibly spread from the rectal area or following a urological procedure) and injuries to the groin.
Epididymitis is diagnosed using a physical examination and a medical history.
A culture of discharge from the penis and a urine test 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.
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 health professional. It is important for sex partners to be tested and treated for a possible infection.
Antibiotics are used to treat epididymitis. Supportive measures, such as bed rest with elevation of the hips and anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen), may help relieve discomfort caused by epididymitis.
You can reduce your risk of epididymitis - or any other
sexually transmitted infection (STI) — by practicing safe sex. Your risk is higher if you:
- Have multiple sex partners
- Have unprotected sexual contact