What is Orchitis?

Orchitis is a condition in which one or both testicles become inflamed. Most often, it is caused by the mumps virus or an infection. The latter may occur due to a virus or bacteria that can by passed on through various sexually transmitted infections, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea. Bacterial orchitis sometimes stems from epididymitis, which is an inflammation in the coiled tube that carries and stores the sperm in the back of the testicle.

Men who have not been vaccinated against mumps, have recurring urinary infections, and who have frequent unprotected sexual encounters with numerous partners are among those at the highest risk of developing orchitis. This risk increases when any of those partners has a sexually transmitted infection. Left untreated, the condition can result in complications such as testicular atrophy, chronic epididymitis, scrotal abscess, death of testicular tissues, and – in rare cases – infertility.

What are the Symptoms of Orchitis?

Patients with orchitis frequently report symptoms as setting in suddenly. The infection can cause men to experience:

  • Swelling in the testicles
  • Testicular pain
  • Tenderness in the testicles
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in semen
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
  • Abnormal discharge

Orchitis Causes

This type of testicular inflammation can be caused by a number of different infections. It is often caused by the virus that causes mumps. However, there are a number of viral and bacterial infections that can cause orchitis. Sometimes, the exact cause of this condition in a patient is unknown. When the case is a bacterial infection, it is often the result of epididymitis. This condition is caused by a bladder or urethra infection that has spread from its point of origin to the epididymis. Bacterial causes of orchitis sometimes include an STI such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Genetics can also play a role. For those born with urinary tract abnormalities, orchitis is more likely. Urinary tract problems can also come from medical instruments, including catheters, being used inside the penis. In areas of the world where mumps is still common, about a third of boys and men who get the virus will get orchitis. Worldwide, cases of mumps are the most common cause of this inflammation.

How is Orchitis Treated?

Depending on what is determined to be the cause of the infection, a doctor may recommend various treatments. In cases of bacterial orchitis, patients will be prescribed antibiotics, which is also recommended for their sexual partner if they have a sexually transmitted infection.

There is no cure for viral orchitis, so treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms until the condition has run its course and clears up on its own. This can be accomplished through the use of NSAIDs, cold packs, and bed rest. It is also highly recommended that patients refrain from sexual intercourse and lifting heavy objects during treatment, which may take several weeks.

Orchitis Prevention

Getting inoculated against the mumps virus is the most effective way to prevent orchitis. In the U.S., mumps is now a rare condition thanks to decades of this vaccine being in use. If you travel to areas where the vaccination is not common, check your immunizations to be sure that you’ve had the vaccine. If you have not received it, get this immunization before traveling out of the country.

Use a condom and limit your number of sexual partners to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Many of these can cause orchitis and other complications in men. Taking care of your urinary health can also be helpful. Chronic urinary tract infections can cause this condition. Practicing good hygiene and seeking treatment for urinary tract infections right away can prevent developing this form of testicular inflammation.