What is a hydrocele?

A hydrocele is a painless swelling in the testicle caused by fluid. It can occur in one or both testicles. Hydroceles are most common in newborns, especially those who are born prematurely. Most hydroceles in infants shrink on their own a few months to a year after birth. Older boys occasionally develop hydroceles after an infection or injury, but this is less common and usually self-resolves.

There are two main types of hydroceles:

  • Communicating hydrocele: This type of hydrocele occurs when the channel that connects the scrotum to the abdominal cavity does not close before birth. This allows fluid to move back and forth from the scrotum and abdomen. With this type, the scrotum may appear to change in size throughout the day.
  • Non-communicating hydrocele: In this type, the channel is closed, but there is extra fluid around the testicle in the scrotum. Non-communicating hydroceles usually remain the same size or shrink over time.

What are the signs and symptoms of a hydrocele?

The main symptom of a hydrocele is a painless swelling in one or both testicles. There may be a bluish color to the scrotum.

What causes a hydrocele?

Hydroceles can occur during a baby's development when the testicles move down into the scrotum from the abdomen, and the channel that connects the two does not close. They can also be caused by extra fluid around the testicles or from an injury.

How is a hydrocele treated?

Most babies with a hydrocele will not need any treatment. In most cases, the hydrocele will shrink on its own over the baby's first year. Hydroceles that do not shrink may need to be treated with surgery to drain the fluid and remove the channel connecting the scrotum to the abdomen.

Your medical team at Arkansas Children’s is experienced in treating all types of hydroceles and will work with you to come up with the best treatment plan for your child.