A Retractile Testicle is a testicle that does not stay fixed in the scrotum. Instead, it actually moves back and forth between the groin and the scrotum. When a boy has a retractile testicle, the testicle will move back into the abdomen or groin as a muscle reflex when it is stimulated.
Oftentimes, a retractile testicle may be mistaken for what is known as an undescended testicle because it is not found in the scrotum during an exam. The difference, of course, is that an undescended testicle never dropped down out of the groin (abdomen) whereas the retractile testicle did drop but moved back and forth between the abdomen and scrotum.
The cause of a retractile testicle is the cremaster muscle being overactive or otherwise malfunctioning. The cremaster muscle is designed to bring the testicles closer to the body to properly maintain temperature or as a protective reflex in times of extreme emotion or stress. However, when a boy has a retractile testicle the reflex of the cremaster muscle (known as cremastic reflex) is overly powerful and pulls the testicle up into the groin rather than just up against the body.
Oftentimes, the symptoms of a retractile testicle have to do with the fact that the testicle sometimes disappears. The retractile testicle may be movable with the hands, meaning it can be returned to the scrotum from the groin and will remain in the scrotum when this occurs. The testicle could also suddenly appear or disappear on its own in the scrotum. There is normally no pain or discomfort associated with the condition and the condition normally only affects one of a boy’s testicles and the other is normal (descended).
A retractile testicle is caused by an overactive muscle known as the cremaster muscle, which is what each testicle is attached to. The cremaster muscle naturally reflexes in all men, often in response to the cold in order to draw the testicle closer to the body’s warmth.
However, in some males, usually during childhood, the cremaster reflex is strong enough to draw the testicle further towards the body than is normal. This results in the testicle leaving the scrotum and moving up into the groin.
It isn’t clear why some boys have a stronger cremaster reflex than most. However, since the condition doesn’t usually have severe complications and often corrects itself during adolescence, it rarely causes long-term problems.
Generally, a retractile testicle does not require treatment. The cremaster muscle abnormalities correct themselves by around the time of puberty. Monitoring or checking the testicle during yearly exams will be recommended until the testicle descends. However, if the testicle becomes ascended, meaning it retracts up into the groin or abdomen and cannot be moved back into the scrotum, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue.
It isn’t possible to prevent retractile testicle, but if the condition causes discomfort then it may be possible to reduce the frequency at which the testicles retract.
Since the cremaster muscles tend to react to temperature, it may be helpful to keep the groin warm, particularly during cold weather. Wearing thick, warm underwear might help to keep the cremaster muscles relaxed.
Playing sports can also often cause the cremaster reflex since the body instinctively strives to protect the testicles from harm. Wearing a jock strap might help to support the scrotum and reduce this natural reflex response, allowing for more comfortable play.
In rare instances, retractile testicle can cause the testicle to ascend into the groin permanently. Although there is usually nothing that can be done to prevent this, complications can be prevented by seeking treatment rapidly. It’s important to check the testicles regularly in order to detect an ascended testicle early. Therefore, young boys should be taught how to examine their testicles and how to recognize anything that is unusual.