Epididymitis is the inflammation of the epididymis, a coiled structure attached to the upper part of each male testis that stores and carries sperm. Epididymitis can be painful, but it is not life threatening. Although it is most common in males between the ages of 19 and 35, males at any age can have it. There are many causes and signs of epididymitis.
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One of the causes of epididymitis is an infection, which is usually bacterial and rarely fungal. Infections can be the result of a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhoea or chlamydia. Prostate or urinary tract infections may also cause bacterial infections in the epididymis. Surgery or procedures in which a urinary catheter or scope is inserted in the penis can introduce bacteria that may result in infection.
Signs of epididymitis caused by infection include testicle pain, swelling, tenderness, chills and fever that can last up to six weeks, a lump on the testicle, redness, blood in the semen, a discharge from the penis, discomfort in the lower abdomen and enlarged lymph nodes in the groin.
If an enlarged prostate obstructs the flow of urine, causing urine to remain in the bladder, the risk of bladder infections is increased and thus the risk of contracting epididymitis.
Viruses can cause epididymitis, as can trauma to the testicles, such as a physical blow. Urine reflux may also cause inflammation, as can a rupture of sperm ducts that can leak sperm fluid into the surrounding tissue. Some diseases, such as tuberculosis, can trigger epididymitis. Whether or not the condition is caused by an infection, one of the common signs of epididymitis is that only one testicle will be affected.
The medical profession admits that sometimes epididymitis is "idiopathic," meaning the cause is unknown. The signs of non-infectious and idiopathic epididymitis are similar to those caused by infection but without fever or chills. Regardless of the cause, epididymitis can be painful, annoying and depressing, especially when it creates discomfort during intercourse.
Consult your doctor when signs of epididymitis occur. If it is caused by infection, doctors will prescribe antibiotics. Whatever the cause, anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, available over the counter, is helpful in reducing inflammation and pain. When lying in bed at night, support the weight of your scrotum by rolling a soft bath towel and placing it between your legs beneath the inflamed parts. During the day, wear a jock strap or two pairs of jockey shorts to support the testicles. Apply either an ice bag or heat from a hot-water bottle or electric heating pad to the inflamed area. Use cold or heat, depending on whichever gives the most comfort. Always empty your bladder before lifting any heavy objects. Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary.
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