WellSpan Home

Undescended Testicle

Topic Overview

What is an undescended testicle?

As a baby boy grows inside his mother, he develops testicles. Early in his development, his testicles are in his belly. Normally, before he is born, his testicles move down into his scrotum, the sac that hangs below the penis. When one testicle does not move into the scrotum as it should, the baby has an undescended testicle. In rare cases, both testicles are undescended.

It is most common in baby boys who were born before their due date or who were very small at birth.

Doctors don't really know what causes an undescended testicle. This common condition runs in some families (can be inherited).

Most of the time, the testicle descends (drops) on its own by the time the baby is 3 months old. If your baby's testicle hasn't dropped by the time he is 6 months of age, your doctor may suggest treatment.

What are the symptoms?

An undescended testicle doesn't cause pain or other symptoms. The scrotum may look a little smoother or less developed on one side, or the side without a testicle may look smaller and flatter. You can't feel the testicle in the scrotum on the side where it hasn't descended.

How is an undescended testicle diagnosed?

At newborn and well-baby visits, your doctor will check your baby's scrotum.

  • If the testicle can be felt but it is not in the scrotum, the doctor will probably want to check your baby again at 3 to 6 months of age. By this time, the testicle may have moved into place on its own.
  • Sometimes the doctor can't feel the testicle at all. It could still be in the baby's belly, it could be too small to feel, or it could be absent. The doctor may recommend a type of surgery called laparoscopy to see if he or she can find the testicle. Laparoscopy requires only a small cut below the belly button, which heals quickly.
  • If both testicles are undescended and can't be felt in the groin, the doctor will do a blood hormone test to find out if the testicles are absent. This means having no testicles at all. It is very rare to have two absent testicles.

Some other conditions are closely related to undescended testicles, such as an ectopic or retractile testicle. In both of these conditions, the testicle is in an abnormal position in the groin or scrotum. Your doctor will take care to make the correct diagnosis so your child can get the right treatment.

How is it treated?

Usually doctors recommend a wait-and-see approach for newborns. If the testicle hasn't dropped on its own within 6 months, your doctor may recommend surgery (orchiopexy or orchidopexy). Surgery is usually recommended by the time the baby is 18 months old.footnote 1 It is safe and effective and has few risks. Most babies recover quickly.

When babies have a testicle that can't be felt, doctors may do a different surgery that needs only a small cut (laparoscopy).

Why is it important to treat an undescended testicle?

Treatment is important, because having an undescended testicle increases the risk of:

  • Infertility . Damage to a testicle's sperm-making ability can begin as early as 12 months of age. Treatment helps lower the chance of infertility.
  • Cancer of the testicles . Men who were born with undescended testicles have a higher rate of testicular cancer than other men. But this cancer is rare. It can be cured if found early. If you are a young man who was born with an undescended testicle, talk with your doctor about what you should do.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about undescended testicles:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

  • Can this condition cause infertility?
  • What is the risk for getting testicular cancer?

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

HealthyChildren.org (U.S.)
www.healthychildren.org
Urology Care Foundation (U.S.)
www.urologyhealth.org

References

Citations

  1. Kolon TF, et al. (2014). Evaluation and treatment of cryptorchidism: AUA guideline. Journal of Urology, 192(2): 337–345. DOI: 10.1016/j.juro.2014.05.005. Accessed August 16, 2017.

Other Works Consulted

  • Barthold JS (2012). Abnormalities of the testis and scrotum and their surgical management. In AJ Wein et al., eds., Campbell-Walsh Urology, 10th ed., vol. 4, pp. 3557–3596. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Kolon TF, et al. (2014). Evaluation and treatment of cryptorchidism: AUA guideline. Journal of Urology, 192(2): 337–345. DOI: 10.1016/j.juro.2014.05.005. Accessed August 16, 2017.
  • Zeitler PS, et al. (2014). Endocrine disorders. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 1054–1096. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter Anderson, MD, FRCS(C) - Pediatric Urology

Current as ofFebruary 22, 2018


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×