An undescended testicle is when the testicle hasn’t moved into its usual place in the scrotum before birth. In most cases, only one testicle is affected, but 10% of the time both are descended. In general, a descended testicle is uncommon, but it is common for baby boys that are born prematurely. The doctor usually finds the problem during the check-up soon after birth. Most of the time, it moves into its proper place on its own during the first few months of life. If it doesn’t correct itself, there are treatment options available.
The main sign of a descended testicle is not seeing or feeling a testicle where it should be in the scrotum. When both are descended, the scrotum looks flatter and smaller than you would expect it to be.
In most cases, it is unknown why the testicles fail to drop. Doctors believe it is related to genetics, the mother’s health, and other outside influences that could change how nerves and hormones usually work. No studies have shown that this is caused by anything that the mother did or ate during pregnancy.
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Family history of undescended testicles or other problems of genital development
- Conditions of the fetus that can restrict growth, such as Down syndrome or an abdominal wall defect
- Alcohol use by the mother during pregnancy
- Cigarette smoking by the mother or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Parents' exposure to some pesticides
Treatment should occur before the child turns one to lower any risks such as infertility and testicular cancer. You should treat an undescended testicle because it may not make sperm and it is more likely to develop a tumor.
Surgery: This is the most common treatment method. The surgeon will bring the testicle where it should be located in the scrotum and then stitch it into place. After surgery, the doctor will monitor closely to make sure the testicle continues to develop, functions correctly, and stays in place.
Hormone treatment: Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is the hormone used to make the testicle move to the scrotum. This treatment method isn’t usually recommended because it is much less effective than surgery.