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A hydrocele is a sac of fluid which accumulates in a body cavity. These benign conditions most often occur in the testicles, although they can also arise in other parts of the body as well. A hydrocele itself is generally not cause for concern, although it can be uncomfortable, but it should be evaluated by a doctor to confirm that the swelling really is a hydrocele, and not something else. A doctor can also recommend treatment problems for people who are uncomfortable, or for individuals who find a hydrocele unsightly.
The underlying cause of most hydroceles is not known. When drained, these sacs contain serous fluid, such as that found in the lymphatic system. Some are congenital, caused by a small malformation which occurs during fetal development, while others may be associated with trauma, certain medications such as chemotherapy, tumors, or blocked lymph glands.
Hydrocele testis, as hydroceles in the testicles are known, is a not uncommon problem in babies and adult men. Like other hydroceles, it presents as a swelling which can be seen and palpated. Some people experience pain around the site, while others find it disconcerting. A doctor can confirm that the problem is a hydrocele by shining a light through it, or by using medical imaging such as ultrasound. These techniques can also be used to identify hydroceles in other regions of the body.
In the event that a swelling is indeed caused by the presence of a hydrocele, there are two treatment options. A doctor can choose to aspirate it with a needle, pulling the buildup of fluid out, although the sac may refill with serous fluid after being drained. Doctors can also remove the entire sac surgically, preventing the recurrence of the hydrocele. Surgical removal may be recommended if a doctor is concerned about recurrence of the fluid buildup.
Unusual swellings and changes in the body's texture and shape are definitely a cause for concern, because there are a number of potential causes for physical changes, ranging from a benign hydrocele to a fast-moving malignant tumor. For this reason, people should definitely go to the doctor if they observe a change, so that the doctor can determine what is causing the change, and how to address it. Patients who have experienced hydroceles before may want to bring them to the attention of the doctor, so that he or she is aware of the patient's history when evaluating the situation.