What Are the Implications of an Undescended Testicle?
An undescended testicle is a testicle that has not moved from the abdomen (where it develops in a fetus) into the scrotum (the bag of skin located behind the penis). While it is not common, premature babies are at higher risk of having an undescended testicle, and it occurs in an estimated 1 in 25 baby boys.
In most cases, an undescended testicle resolves itself and moves into its proper location within the first few months of a baby’s life. However, in about 1 in 100 boys, the testicle remains undescended.
Sometimes, a person has only one undescended testicle, and sometimes they have two undescended testicles. It is simple to diagnose an undescended testicle because it will be missing from the place where it is typically located.
There are a few implications of a persistently undescended testicle for adult men. First, there is a higher likelihood of the man developing testicular cancer in an undescended testicle than one that is in its proper location. What’s more, it is not possible for a man with an undescended testicle to monitor it for the signs and symptoms associated with cancer since it is still inside the abdomen.
Second, an undescended testicle can negatively affect the quality of the sperm that come from that testicle. The abnormal development of the testicle may be the reason for the poor sperm quality and quantity, and it may get worse the longer the testicle remains undescended. This issue may be especially relevant for men who have two undescended testicles and wish to have a baby.
Fortunately, surgery can correct an undescended testicle in many cases. Since early surgical treatment appears to lower the risk of later complications, your surgeon will likely recommend the surgery when a child with an undescended testicle is between six to twelve months old.
During a laparoscopy, a small camera is inserted into a small incision in the abdomen to view and fix the location of the testicle. Open surgery (with a larger incision) may be required in some cases.
If the testicle has shriveled up and is no longer viable, there are surgeries that can remove the testicle as well. When this is the case, a prosthetic testicle can be placed for aesthetic and psychological reasons. As such, if you have an undescended testicle, talk to your doctor or another trusted health care provider about treatment options.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 21). Undescended testicle. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/undescended-testicle/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352000
- (2021, October 26). Undescended testicles. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/undescended-testicles/