Epididymitis is irritation and swelling of the tube (epididymis) that stores and carries sperm from your testicles to your penis. The testicles are part of the male reproductive organs. They are in a sac of loose skin, called the scrotum or scrotal sac, which is below and behind the penis.
What is the cause?
Epididymitis can be caused by infections, blockages, or swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the urinary tract or reproductive organs. These infections, blockages, and inflammation may be caused by:
Urinary tract infections
Blockages in your urinary tract that you were born with
A sexually transmitted disease or infection (also called an STD or STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea
Infection of the prostate gland
Surgery, such as prostate removal or a vasectomy
A medical procedure involving your urinary tract, such as cystoscopy or a urinary catheter
Sometimes men have epididymitis when they are taking a heart rhythm medicine called amiodarone. Sometimes no cause can be found.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Pain in one or both testicles that comes on gradually, although epididymitis usually happens on just 1 side.
Red, warm, swollen scrotum
Drops of pus from the opening of the penis
Pain or burning when you urinate
Pain with sex, including with orgasm
Lump in a testicle
Discomfort in your lower belly or side
Blood in the semen
Fever and chills
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:
A rectal exam
Tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea
How is it treated?
Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotic medicine. Your sexual partner may need to be treated at the same time to prevent re-infection if a sexually-transmitted disease is the cause. Your provider may prescribe another medicine for pain and swelling. The pain usually gets better in 1 to 3 days.
If you have an infection, it is very important to have a follow-up visit with your healthcare provider to make sure the infection is completely gone. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, the symptoms may come back if antibiotics do not kill all of the bacteria. If the infection spreads to the testicles, it could make you infertile (unable to have children).
Some men have chronic epididymitis, which means that the swelling goes away, but pain continues. If antibiotics and pain medicine do not help, you may need surgery to remove the epididymis. If only one is removed, you should continue to be able to have children.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you were prescribed an antibiotic, take all of it as prescribed, even if you have no symptoms. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
If you are very uncomfortable, you may need to rest in bed for a couple of days.
Raise the scrotum by putting a rolled-up towel under it when you are resting.
Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the scrotum every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Wear an athletic supporter or jockey shorts instead of boxers to help relieve discomfort.
How can I help prevent epididymitis?
Keep your penis and scrotum clean. If you are not circumcised, gently pull back the foreskin when you bathe or shower to clean the penis.
If you have symptoms of burning when you urinate or a discharge from the penis, see your healthcare provider promptly.
Have just one sex partner.
Use a latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex to protect against STDs.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-06-09 Last reviewed: 2014-05-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
WebMD. Epididymitis â€“ Topic Overview. 9/2012. Accessed 4/2014 from
PubMedHealth. Epididymitis. US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, National Center of Biotechnology Information. 8/12/2010. Accessed 4/25/2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002258/.