Orchitis: Causes, Symptoms & Medical Treatments

Picture of Orchitis

What is Orchitis?

Orchitis is an inflammation of the testicles. It can be caused by either bacteria or a virus.

Both testicles may be affected by orchitis at the same time. However, the symptoms are usually in just one testicle.

This kind of testicular inflammation is often associated with the mumps virus.

Bacterial orchitis can be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly gonorrhea or chlamydia. Bacterial orchitis often results from epididymitis, an inflammation of the coiled tube (epididymis) at the back of the testicle that stores and carries sperm. In that case, it’s called epididymo-orchitis.

Orchitis causes pain and can affect fertility. Medication can treat the causes of bacterial orchitis and can ease some signs and symptoms of viral orchitis. But it may take several weeks for scrotal tenderness to disappear.

Causes of Orchitis

Orchitis may be caused by an infection. Many types of bacteria and viruses can cause this condition.

The most common virus that causes orchitis is mumps. It most often occurs in boys after puberty. Orchitis most often develops 4 to 6 days after the mumps begins. Mumps is now rare in the United States due to childhood vaccinations.

Picture of Orchitis

Orchitis may also occur along with infections of the prostate or epididymis.

Orchitis may be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. The rate of sexually transmitted orchitis or epididymitis is higher in men ages 19 to 35.

Risk factors for sexually transmitted orchitis include:

  • High-risk sexual behaviors
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Personal history of gonorrhea or another STI
  • Sexual partner with a diagnosed STI

Risk factors for orchitis not due to an STI include:

  • Being older than age 45
  • Long-term use of a Foley catheter
  • Not being vaccinated against the mumps
  • Problems of the urinary tract that were present at birth (congenital)
  • Repeated urinary tract infections
  • Surgery of the urinary tract (genitourinary surgery)

Symptoms of Orchitis

The symptoms associated with orchitis may range from mild to severe, and the inflammation may involve one or both testicles. Patients may experience the rapid onset of pain and swelling, or the symptoms may appear more gradually. Symptoms of orchitis may include the following:

  • Testicular swelling
  • Testicular redness
  • Testicular pain and tenderness
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea
  • Malaise and fatigue
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Pain with urination

In epididymo-orchitis, the symptoms may come on and progress more gradually.

  • Epididymitis initially causes a localized area of pain and swelling on the back of the testicle for several days.
  • Later, the infection increases and spreads to involve the whole testicle.
  • Possible pain or burning before or after urination and penile discharge may also be seen.

Home Remedies for Orchitis

Home care along with the right medical treatment can help improve the symptoms of orchitis.

  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin, for example), naproxen (Aleve,Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help with pain.
  • Elevating your scrotum with snug-fitting briefs or an athletic supporter can increase comfort.
  • Apply ice packs.
    • Ice should not be directly applied to the skin because this may cause burns from freezing. Rather, the ice should be wrapped in a thin cloth and then applied to the scrotum.
    • The ice packs may be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day for the first day or two. This will help keep down the swelling (and pain).

Medical Treatment for Orchitis

The majority of cases of orchitis and epididymo-orchitis require antibiotics. Antibiotic therapy is necessary to cure the infection and prevent its spread.

  • Most men can be treated with antibiotics at home for a minimum of 10 days. Longer courses are often required if the prostate is involved.
  • If you have high fever, nausea, vomiting, or are very ill, you may require admission to a hospital for IV antibiotics.
  • Mumps orchitis will clear up over one to three weeks. Just treat your symptoms with home care techniques.
  • Young, sexually active men need to make sure all of their sexual partners are treated. You should use condoms or do not have sexual relations until all partners have completed their full course of antibiotics and are symptom-free.

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