Located inside the scrotum, the testicles (also called the testes) are a pair of glands responsible for producing testosterone and other male hormones as well as sperm. Sometimes, men must have an operation called an orchidectomy (called an orchiectomy in the United States), which removes one or both testicles.
A man might have an orchidectomy for the following reasons:
• Testicular cancer. Cancer cells can develop in one or both testicles. Complete removal of the affected testicle(s) can improve the chances of recovery.
• Testicular torsion. Each testicle receives blood via the attached spermatic cord. Testicular torsion occurs when the spermatic cord twists, cutting off the blood supply. This is a painful condition that usually requires immediate surgery to reduce the risk of damage to the testicle. If surgery is not done in time, the testicle may need to be removed. Testicular torsion is more common in boys between the ages of 12 and 16.
• Testicular injury. Because of their location in the scrotum, the testicles are not as well-protected as other organs. As a result, they can be easily injured if there is any trauma to the groin area, such as a stab, kick, or punch. A man with a severe injury may lose the testicle.
• Undescended testicles. When a baby boy develops in the uterus, his testicles are found in the abdominal cavity. In normal circumstances, they move down to the scrotum (“descend”) before he is born. When this does not happen, the boy is said to have undescended testicles. It’s possible for one or both testicles to be undescended. For some boys, the testicles descend on their own before they are three months old. If they don’t descend by then, however, surgery may be required to move them into the scrotum. Some surgeons will remove a testicle if it is malformed or damaged.
If a male has one testicle removed, he usually doesn’t experience sexual problems. The remaining testicle will produce enough testosterone to make up for the missing one. The man will likely have normal erections and be able to father children.
If both testicles are removed, the man’s body will no longer produce testosterone. This may result in decreased sex drive and problems with erections. He will also become infertile, as sperm production will no longer be possible.
To learn more about the sexual effects of orchidectomy, please click here.