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What is a hydrocele?

A hydrocele occurs from an accumulation of fluid in the tunica vaginalis (a thin pouch that holds the testes within the scrotum). In the fetus, the tunica vaginalis is formed in the abdomen and then migrates into the scrotum with the testes. After the pouch is in the testes, it seals off from the abdomen. Hydroceles can be communicating or non-communicating.

A hydrocele is present in as many as half of all full-term male live births; however, in most cases, it disappears without treatment within the first year.

What are the symptoms of a hydrocele?

The following are the most common symptoms of hydrocele. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include the following:

The symptoms of a hydrocele may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is a hydrocele diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a hydrocele is usually made by a physical examination and a complete medical history. Your child's physician may need to determine if the mass is a hydrocele or an inguinal hernia (a weakened area in the lower abdominal wall or inguinal canal where intestines may protrude).

Transillumination (the passage of a strong light through a body structure to permit inspection on the opposite side) of the scrotum can differentiate a hernia from a hydrocele.

Treatment for a hydrocele:

A non-communicating hydrocele usually resolves spontaneously by the time the child reaches his first birthday. Resolution occurs as the fluid is reabsorbed from the pouch.

A hydrocele that persists longer than 12 to 18 months is usually a communicating hydrocele. A communicating hydrocele usually requires surgical repair to prevent an inguinal hernia from occurring. The surgery involves making a small incision in the groin or inguinal area and then draining the fluid and closing off the opening to the tunica vaginalis.

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