Orchitis is a condition that affects one or both testicles. Medical experts associate orchitis with swelling and tenderness. It commonly occurs due to an underlying infection.

Orchitis often occurs alongside mumps in younger people, but it may occur due to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in sexually active adults and teens. While most people recover with no issues within a few days, some may develop complications.

This article reviews what orchitis is, including its symptoms, causes, risk factors, and more.

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Orchitis refers to the swelling of one or both testicles. Although it can occur on its own, it most commonly occurs alongside an underlying infection.

The condition may or may not produce symptoms. Orchitis can also be acute or chronic.

Symptoms can range in severity from mild to severe. It can occur in both testicles, though it typically affects only one.

When it develops, it usually resolves within 2 weeks.

Common symptoms of orchitis include:

  • blood in the semen
  • pain in one or both testicles
  • fever
  • groin pain
  • a tender, heavy feeling, or swollen testicle
  • discharge from the penis
  • pain during intercourse, ejaculation, or urination
  • scrotal swelling
  • tender, swollen groin area on the affected side

Orchitis typically does not occur in isolation, meaning that it often accompanies another condition. Most commonly, it occurs due to a viral or bacterial infection.

While viruses or bacteria can cause orchitis, the most common cause is mumps. When mumps is the cause, orchitis typically develops 4 to 6 days after infection.

Other common causes include:

Orchitis typically occurs following certain viral infections. For example, it affects about 30% of post-puberty individuals with mumps.

Though it may not be possible to stop all cases of orchitis, some risk factors include:

  • multiple sexual partners
  • a history of epididymitis, a painful swelling of a tube behind the testicles
  • sexual contact without a barrier method, such as a condom
  • bladder outlet obstruction
  • long-term use of a foley catheter, which drains urine from the bladder
  • not having the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination
  • structural abnormalities

A person who experiences a swollen or painful testicle should speak with their doctor for evaluation.

A healthcare professional will likely review the individual’s medical and family history. A physical examination and a review of a person’s health history are usually enough to make a diagnosis.

While not helpful for diagnosing orchitis, a doctor may order testing with a urethra swab or urine check. These can help diagnose the presence of an STI.

A doctor will also need to rule out testicular torsion, a twisting of the testicle that causes blood loss and pain. To rule this out, they may order a color doppler ultrasonography.

Treatment and management for orchitis can vary depending on the exact cause. Some common treatment options doctors may recommend include pain and anti-inflammatory medications, bed rest, and ice packs.

In cases of bacterial infection, a doctor will likely recommend antibiotics to treat the infection. These antibiotics will differ according to whether an STI or another bacterium is causing the swelling.

Most people who experience orchitis receive outpatient treatment. They also tend to do well with antibiotics in cases of bacterial infections, though a person may experience some swelling and tenderness following treatment.

Most cases resolve within 10 days.

Though most people recover with no issues, some do develop complications relating to orchitis. Some possible complications include:

  • infertility
  • scrotal abscess
  • chronic epididymitis
  • fistula on the skin of the scrotum
  • death of testicle tissue

If a person develops swelling in their testicle without pain, it could be a sign of testicular cancer. Individuals should seek medical attention if they notice swelling to help rule out cancer.

A person can take a couple of steps to help prevent orchitis. They include practicing safer sex by limiting the number of sexual partners, wearing condoms, and getting the MMR vaccination.

Orchitis refers to swelling and tenderness of one or both testicles. The condition typically occurs alongside certain infections, including mumps and STIs. While most people fully recover, some may develop complications such as infertility. A person can help prevent the condition through vaccination and practicing safe sex practices.