Epididymitis

Epididymitis is where a tube (the epididymis) at the back of the testicles becomes swollen and painful. It's often caused by an infection and is usually treated with antibiotics.

If the testicles are also affected, it may be called epididymo-orchitis.

Check if it's epididymitis

Symptoms of epididymitis may include:

  • sudden or gradual pain in one or both of your testicles (balls)
  • the bag of skin containing your testicles (scrotum) feeling tender, warm and swollen
  • a build-up of fluid around your testicle (a hydrocele) that feels like a lump or swelling

You may have other symptoms depending on the cause – for example, difficulty peeing, or a white, yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis.

Causes of epididymitis

Epididymitis is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. This is more likely in younger men under 35 years old.

It can also be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), but UTIs are less common in men. A UTI is more likely if you have:

Sometimes a cause can't be found.

Less common causes of epididymitis

See a GP if you have:

  • a lump in your testicles
  • swollen testicles
  • a change in the shape of your testicles
  • a change in the way your testicles feel
  • one testicle that's become bigger than the other
  • aching or discomfort in your testicles that doesn't go away

Lumps in the testicles can be a sign of testicular cancer. This is easier to treat if it's found early.

Sexual health clinics can help with epididymitis

You can also get treatment for epididymitis at a sexual health clinic.

They can provide the same antibiotics you would get at your GP surgery.

Many sexual health clinics also offer a walk-in service, where you don't need an appointment.

Find a sexual health clinic

Go to A&E if you get sudden, unbearable pain in your testicles or tummy

This could be caused by your testicle becoming twisted and needs to be treated in hospital as soon as possible.

Find your nearest A&E

What happens at your appointment

You'll usually need some tests first to find out the cause. These may include:

  • a groin examination
  • a swab of the tube that carries pee out of the body (urethra) – to test for infection
  • urine and blood tests
  • a rectal examination – to check for problems with your prostate

Treatment for epididymitis

If you have an infection, you'll usually be given antibiotics. You should start to feel better within a few days, but it may take up to 2 weeks to fully recover.

It's important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better.

There are some things you can do while you recover to help ease pain and swelling and prevent any further problems.

Do

  • take painkillers such as ibuprofen to help with the pain
  • hold a cold pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) on your groin
  • wear underwear that supports your scrotum

Don't

  • have sex if you have gonorrhoea or chlamydia until you've finished the full course of treatment

Page last reviewed: 05/04/2018
Next review due: 05/04/2021

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