The testicles first form in the abdomen of a male fetus. Just before birth, the testicles move down through the groin into the scrotum. In some infants, a passage remains that connects the abdomen and the scrotum. This can allow abdominal fluid to collect in the scrotum. This causes a small bulge there. This bulge may get bigger and smaller as the fluid passes back and forth from the abdomen to the scrotum.
This bulge is called a hydrocele (communicating type). Most hydroceles shrink and disappear by the age of 1 or 2 years and require no treatment.
The danger of this kind of hydrocele is that it can lead to a hernia. A hernia happens when a loop of the intestine moves down from the abdomen into the groin and sometimes all the way into the scrotum. A hernia appears as a painless bulge in the groin or scrotum. As long as the loop of intestine can easily move back into the abdomen, it does not cause any harm. If it stays stuck in the groin or scrotum it can cause tissue death (gangrene) and rupture of the intestine. This is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate surgery. If not repaired, a hernia may continue to get bigger.
A small hydrocele won't interfere in any way with normal activity. You don't need to take any special precautions. You can just observe your baby's scrotum when you're taking care of your baby. Call your child's healthcare provider right away if you notice any changes.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised. This is to be sure the hydrocele is shrinking and that no hernia appears.
When to seek medical advice
Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Pain, redness, or tenderness in the hydrocele
A new bulge in the groin that appears just above the thigh crease or in the scrotum
Sudden increase in size of the hydrocele that does not go down
Pain in the testicle that happens with nausea, vomiting, or both