The cremasteric reflex is a type of superficial reflex that is present only in the human male. It involves the involuntary contraction of the cremaster muscle when the inner portion of the thigh is lightly stroked. This causes the scrotum and testicle to be pulled into an upward direction. While the reflex is often overactive during early adolescence, its absence in older males may sometimes indicate health concerns such as testicular torsion, spinal injury, or a variety of motor neuron disorders. Any questions or concerns about the cremasteric reflex in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
During puberty, this reflex is sometimes a bit overactive. In some cases, this may indicate that the testicle on the affected side has not yet descended, but in most cases, there is no medical significance associated with it. As long as there are no bothersome symptoms present, treatment is not usually needed. A healthcare professional may decide to monitor the condition over a period of time, and if the reflex remains or causes any uncomfortable side effects, additional testing may be considered.
The absence of a cremasteric reflex, especially in older men, may indicate the presence of an underlying medical condition that should be addressed. Testicular torsion is the most common cause of its loss. This condition occurs when the spermatic cord attached to the affected testicle becomes twisted, and it usually causes severe pain and should be treated as a medical emergency. Without prompt medical treatment, the blood supply to the testicle may become cut off completely, potentially leading to the loss of the testicle and impaired fertility.
When the reflex is not present and testicular torsion has been ruled out, further tests may be performed in an effort to diagnose any underlying medical conditions. Spinal injuries, particularly those affecting the lower portion of the spine, are potential causes for this abnormality. Motor neuron disorders are also among the potential causes of the loss of this reflex. Some of these disorders may include multiple sclerosis, paralysis, or stroke. It is important to discuss any health concerns with a medical professional so that proper diagnostic tests can be performed and an individualized treatment plan set into motion.
Depending on the cause of cremasteric reflex abnormalities, medical treatment may or may not become necessary. Additional tests, such as the use of a testicular Doppler, may be used in an effort to diagnose any potential complications. In rare cases, especially when testicular torsion is present, surgical intervention may become necessary in order to attempt to save the affected testicle.