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Epididymal cysts

Epididymal cysts are fluid-filled lumps found near to your testicles. Epididymal cysts can occur at any age but are most common in men over 35.

About epididymal cysts

Epididymal cysts form when fluid builds up in the epididymis – this is a long, narrow tube above your testicles that stores sperm. It’s possible to have more than one cyst at a time and they can appear on both testicles.

Epididymal cysts are harmless and not a sign of testicular cancer. They usually start as small, fluid-filled lumps and may grow into bigger cysts called spermatoceles. These may contain sperm as well as fluid and are also harmless.

Symptoms of epididymal cysts

Epididymal cysts usually appear as painless lumps near to your testicle. They are usually easy to separate from your testicle on self-examination. As the cysts grow in size, your testicle may start to ache and you may have some pain and discomfort.

These symptoms may be caused by problems other than epididymal cysts, but if you have them, see your GP for advice.

Causes of epididymal cysts

The exact reasons why you may develop epididymal cysts aren't fully understood at present.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that having epididymal cysts reduces your fertility, or that they can turn into cancer.

Diagnosis of epididymal cysts

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may also ask you about your medical history.

Your GP will shine a light underneath your scrotum (called transillumination). This allows your GP to distinguish solid matter from liquid, which is helpful to check for epididymal cysts. If he or she finds any cysts and they are clearly separate from your testicle, this means they are harmless.

If your GP can’t feel the cyst separate from your testicle, or the cysts are causing you pain and discomfort, you will be referred to a urologist (a doctor who specialises in identifying and treating conditions that affect the urinary system).

Treatment of epididymal cysts

You will usually only need treatment if the epididymal cysts cause you pain and discomfort.

Surgery

The most common method of treating epididymal cysts is to surgically remove them. The operation is usually done under general anaesthesia, which means you will be asleep during the procedure. Alternatively, you may be able to have local anaesthesia and sedation. This completely blocks pain in your scrotum and you will stay awake during the operation.

Your surgeon will make a small cut in your scrotum to reach the cyst. He or she will then separate the cyst from the tissue that surrounds it. The epididymis and the cut on your scrotum will be closed with dissolvable stitches. The length of time your dissolvable stitches will take to disappear depends on what type you have. However, for this procedure they should usually disappear in about seven to 10 days.

As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with the surgical treatment of epididymal cysts. The possible complications include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, infection, excessive bleeding and accidental injury to the epididymis. There is also a chance the epididymal cysts may reoccur. For more information about the risks and benefits of your procedure, talk to your surgeon.

Prevention of epididymal cysts

There isn't anything you can do to prevent epididymal cysts developing, but it's important to be testicle aware. Being testicle aware means knowing the look and feel of your testicles, and knowing what changes to look for. Contact your GP if you notice any change in the shape and size of your scrotum.

 

Produced by Krysta Munford, Bupa Health Information Team, June 2012.

For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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