About undescended testicles
An undescended testicle is a testicle that doesn’t fully sit within the scrotum. Instead, it’s in the groin or lower abdomen. This condition can happen to one or both testicles.
Sometimes testicles can be undescended at birth. When babies are developing in the womb, the testicles (testes) form in the abdomen. In the last few months of development, the testicles usually move down into the scrotum. But sometimes one or both testicles don’t move down by the time babies are born. If testicles are undescended at birth, they might move down by themselves within the first 3 months of life. But sometimes this doesn’t happen either.
Sometimes the testicles are in the scrotum at birth but are pulled up into the groin or abdomen at around 4-10 years of age. This happens because the cord that attaches the testicle to the abdomen doesn’t grow at the same rate as the child.
Undescended testicles can increase the risk of several health issues including testicular twisting, a groin hernia, trauma, reduced fertility and testicular cancer.
An undescended testicle is different from a retractile testicle. A retractile testicle is one that sits where it should be in the scrotum but pulls up when your child is cold, embarrassed or upset. It comes down again when your child is warm or has calmed down. Although retractile testicles are common, it’s a good idea to have your GP check it out.
Symptoms of an undescended testicle
The main symptom of undescended testicles is that you can’t see or feel one or both testicles in the scrotum.
Undescended testicles don’t cause any pain.
Every now and then when you’re bathing your baby or changing a nappy, check that you can see and feel both testicles in the scrotum. Your GP will also check them during routine check-ups. You can encourage older children to check themselves.
Does your child need to see a doctor about an undescended testicle?
If you think your child has an undescended testicle, you need to see your GP. Your GP might refer your son to a surgeon.
An ultrasound or other tests are rarely needed.
Treatment for undescended testicles
If your child’s testicle hasn’t descended by 3 months after birth, surgery might be needed to bring it down into the scrotum.
This surgery is called an orchidopexy and is usually done at 6-9 months of age. It prevents long-term damage to the testicles and reduces the risk of the other problems.
If your child develops an undescended testicle in later childhood or adolescence, surgery might be needed at that stage.