Hydrocele (Communicating)

The testicles first form in the belly (abdomen) of a developing male baby. Just before birth, the testicles move down through the groin into the scrotum. In some infants, a passage that links the belly and the scrotum stays open. This can allow abdominal fluid to collect in the scrotum. This causes a small bulge there. The bulge may get bigger and smaller as the fluid passes back and forth from the belly to the scrotum.

This bulge is called a hydrocele (communicating type). Most hydroceles shrink and go away by the age of 1 or 2 years. They don't need 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 or fat from inside the belly moves down from the belly into the groin. Sometimes it moves all the way into the scrotum. A hernia appears as a painless bulge in the groin or scrotum. If the loop of intestine can easily move back into the belly, it doesn't cause any harm. If it stays stuck in the groin or scrotum, it can cause tissue death (gangrene). And it can cause the intestine to burst (rupture). This is a life-threatening emergency. It requires immediate surgery. If not fixed, a hernia may keep getting bigger.

Home care

A small hydrocele won't interfere in any way with normal activity. You don't need to take any special safety steps. You can just watch your baby's scrotum. Call your child's healthcare provider right away if you see any changes.

Follow-up care

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 get medical care

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain, redness, or soreness in the hydrocele

  • A new bulge in the groin just above the thigh crease or in the scrotum

  • The hydrocele suddenly grows and doesn't get smaller

  • Pain in the testicle that happens with nausea, vomiting, or both

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