The scrotum is part of the male genitals, found behind the penis. It is a small pouch that holds the testicles, a pair of round glands that make, hold, and expel sperm and male hormones. The scrotum’s texture can vary depending on its temperature and can range from thin and loose or more firm and muscular. Drastic changes in texture can be a sign of male genital disorders, ranging from benign masses to cancer.
While a male fetus is forming in the womb, his testicles first start to develop inside his abdomen. As he becomes more formed, the testicles are supposed to drop down from the abdomen and settle into the scrotum. In some males, one or both of the testicles may remain inside of the abdomen at birth, particularly if the baby was born prematurely. The testicles may eventually drop down without treatment and not cause any health problems; however, if they do not, it can prevent the male from being able to impregnate a woman because the testicles cannot properly produce and expel sperm.
One of the most important responsibilities of the scrotum is to protect the testicles and sperm by keeping them at a proper temperature. For the healthiest sperm, the testicles need to be kept at a slightly lower temperature than the rest of the body to preserve the sperm and ensure it stays alive. If sperm is exposed to high heat, it can cause damage and prevent the sperm from being able to effectively join with an egg to conceive an embryo. The scrotum’s temperature regulating abilities will usually be able to reduce the temperature of the testicles if they start to become too hot. In rare cases, it may not be effective and a male could become infertile.
If any abnormalities occur inside of the scrotum, it may result in a scrotal mass. A scrotal mass refers to any growth or lump that accumulates on the area surrounding the testicles. One possible cause of a scrotal mass is an infection caused by bacteria from a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or chlamydia or, in more rare circumstances, a viral infection in the epididymis, the small area behind the testicles that holds sperm. Scrotal masses can also be caused by accumulation of dead sperm, which forms into small sacs. In more serious circumstances, scrotal masses may be a sign of cancer of the testicles, in which abnormal cells multiply and form a tumor on the outside of the testicles.