National Testicular Cancer Society
Undescended Testicle Causes, Effects & Treatment

Undescended Testicle – Causes, Effects & Treatments

Testicles are male sex organs that are responsible for producing sperm and hormones. Typically, they form in a male’s abdomen and descend into his scrotum during fetal development. If one or both of your child’s testicles remain in his abdomen, it’s known as an undescended testicle.

This common condition typically resolves on its own within the first few months of life. However, surgery may be necessary in some instances.

The medical term for an undescended testicle is “cryptorchidism.”

What Causes an Undescended Testicle?

The exact cause of an undescended testicle isn’t known. However, researchers believe that a combination of certain factors likely plays a role. These include genetics, the mother’s health, and environmental factors, such as exposure to pesticides or secondhand smoke.

Doctors consider premature birth to be a major contributing risk factor for an undescended testicle. Nearly one-third of premature baby boys have the condition, reports the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of male babies have it.

Excess fibrous tissue or muscles that won’t stretch in your child’s groin can cause an undescended testicle. A surgeon can correct these issues.

What Are the Effects of an Undescended Testicle?

An undescended testicle can affect a man’s fertility if left untreated. The higher temperature inside his body can affect his testicle’s development and sperm production. Men with two undescended testicles are more likely to experience fertility-related issues than men with only one undescended testicle.

Men with an undescended testicle are more likely to develop an inguinal hernia. This causes their intestine to push out through a weakened area in their abdominal wall. Only surgery can correct this painful condition.

Undescended testicles are also a risk factor for testicular cancer, even when they’re corrected. This is true for both the descended and undescended testicle.

How Is an Undescended Testicle Diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor may be able to palpate or feel his undescended testicle in his abdomen. In other cases, the testicle can’t be felt. In some cases, the testicle isn’t present at all.

An X-ray or ultrasound imaging test may help your child’s doctor diagnose an undescended testicle. Imaging scans, including an MRI with contrast dye, can confirm the presence or absence of his testicle.

Two conditions can mimic an undescended testicle. A retractile testicle is one that moves back and forth between your child’s groin and his scrotum. This condition typically subsides as your child ages. An ascending testicle is one that returns to your child’s groin and can’t be easily guided back.

How Is the Condition Treated?

The outlook for children with an undescended testicle is very good. Your child’s undescended testicle will typically come down on its own by the time he reaches 6 months old. His doctor will probably perform a physical examination at that time. They may recommend testing if your child’s testicle hasn’t descended.

Hormones that stimulate testosterone production may be used to cause your child’s testicle to descend. This involves injecting a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). According to research published in American Family Physician, this treatment method has about a 20 percent success rate. It’s not as effective as surgery. It can potentially lead to early puberty.

Your child may need surgery if his testicle hasn’t descended by age 1. The surgery is called “orchiopexy.” It’s usually done as an outpatient procedure. Your child’s surgeon will make a small incision in his groin to allow his testicle to descend to an appropriate position. Recovery typically takes about one week.

Extra tissue may keep your child’s testicle from descending. Your child’s surgeon can remove the excess tissue if this is the case. In other cases, your child may need surgery to stretch the ligament that holds his testicle. This helps his testicle descend into a normal position.

In some cases, the testicle is poorly developed or contains abnormal tissue or tissue that isn’t viable. If this is the case, your child’s surgeon will completely remove this testicular tissue.

If your child reaches adulthood without having his condition treated and he then sees a surgeon, the surgeon will probably recommend removing his testicle. At that point, his testicle is unlikely to produce sperm.


Living With One Testicle FAQs

Living With One Testicle – FAQs

Most people with a penis have two testicles in their scrotum — but some only have one. This is known as monorchism.

Monorchism can be the result of several things. Some people are simply born with just one testicle, while others have one removed for medical reasons.

Read on to learn how having one testicle can impact your fertility, sex drive, and more.

Why does it happen?

Having one testicle is usually the result of an issue during fetal development or surgery.

Undescended testicle

During late fetal development or shortly after birth, testicles descend from the abdomen into the scrotum. But sometimes, one testicle doesn’t drop into the scrotum. This is called an undescended testicle or cryptorchidism.

If the undescended testicle isn’t found or doesn’t descend, it will gradually shrink.

Surgical removal

The procedure to remove a testicle is called orchidectomy.

It’s done for a range of reasons, including:

  • Cancer. If you’re diagnosed with testicular cancer, prostate cancer, or breast cancer, removing a testicle may be part of treatment.
  • Undescended testicle. If you have an undescended testicle that wasn’t found when you were younger, you may need to have it surgically removed.
  • Injury. Injuries to your scrotum can damage one or both of your testicles. If one or both become nonfunctional, you may need surgery.
  • Infection. If you have a serious viral or bacterial infection affecting one or both of your testicles, you may need and orchiectomy if antibiotics don’t do the trick.

Testicular regression syndrome

In some cases, an undescended testicle may be the result of testicular regression syndrome. This condition is also known as vanishing testes syndrome.

It involves the “disappearance” of one or both testicles shortly before or after birth. Before birth, the fetus might appear to have two testicles, but they eventually wither away.

Will it affect my sex life?

Usually not. Many people with one testicle have a healthy and active sex life.

A single testicle can produce enough testosterone to fuel your sex drive. This amount of testosterone is also enough for you to get an erection and ejaculate during an orgasm.

However, if you recently lost a testicle, your healthcare provider can give you a some more detailed guidance on what to expect. It may take a bit of time for things to get back to normal.

Can I still have children?

Yes, in most cases, people with one testicle can get someone pregnant. Remember, one testicle can provide enough testosterone for you to get an erection and ejaculate. This is also enough to produce adequate sperm for fertilization.

As long as you’re in good health and don’t have any underlying conditions that could impact your fertility, you should be able to have children.

If you have one testicle and seem to be having fertility issues, consider following up with a healthcare professional. They can do some quick tests using a sperm sample to check for any issues.

Is it linked to any health risks?

Having just one testicle is rarely a risk factor for other health conditions. However, it can lead to some health complications.

These include:

  • Testicular cancer. People with an undescended testicle have an increased risk of this type of cancer. The cancer can occur on the undescended testicle or the descended one.
  • Subfertility. In rare cases, having one testicle can reduce your fertility. Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t have children. You may just have to be a bit more strategic about your approach.
  • Hernias. If you have an undescended testicle that hasn’t been removed, it may lead to a hernia in the tissue around your groin that requires surgical treatment.

The bottom line

Several human organs come in pairs — think about your kidneys and lungs. Usually, people can live with just one of these organs while maintaining a healthy, normal life. Testicles are no different.

But it’s still important to regularly follow up with a doctor, especially if you have an undescended testicle. This will help to catch any complications, such as testicular cancer, early on, when they’re easier to treat.

While having one testicle is unlikely to have an impact on your health, it can affect your self-esteem, especially in sexual relationships.

If you feel self-conscious about it, consider a few sessions with a therapist. They can help you work through these feelings and give you tools to help you navigate sexual relationships.