Spermatocele Definition:- A cyst like mass that forms on or within the epididymis is called Spermatocele. It is filled with dead sperm cells and fluid and is also called an epididymis cyst.
Spermatocele- An Overview
It is a fluid-filled bulk that forms on the epididymis. The genital structure of the male consists of scrotum, which contains a testicle on either side. The testicle further has two main functions. It produces the male hormone, testosterone and the sperm which travels from the testicle into a chain of tubes which join to form the epididymis. The epididymis sits towards the side and at the back of the testis. There are numerous tube like structures that connect the testis to the epididymis. When one of these tubules gets blocked, a cyst forms on the epididymis. It often contains transparent fluid and some dead sperm cells. Spermatoceles are benign in nature and do not affect the sexual functioning of a man or his erectile role or reproductive capability.
They are also called epididymis cysts or spermatic cysts.
Size of a Spermatocele
There is no static size up to which a Spermatocele cyst can nurture. These cysts can range anywhere from the size of a few millimetres in size to a few centimetres. They become palpable when they grow up to 1 centimetre or 2 centimetres in size.
A Spermatocele usually does not exhibit any signs and symptoms and the size remains fixed. If at all the cyst becomes large in size, it may show on or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the affected testicle
- Discomfort in the affected testicle
- A feeling of bulkiness in the testicle
- Presence of unexplained mass on the testicle
Causes of Spermatocele
Till date, the actual cause of Spermatocele not known. It usually occurs when the tubes of the epididymis that carry and store sperm from the testicle get obstructed. Sometimes trauma and inflammation may also be responsible for the blockage.
Which doctor do you need to consult for Spermatocele?
A Spermatocele is usually checked and treated by a urologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of the the urinary tract and sex organs in men. At the first instance, you can also consult your General Physician or your family doctor.
When to see a doctor?
If you are experiencing any of the following issues, then you must consult your doctor immediately:
- Severe pain
- Abnormal size of the cyst
- Inflammation and redness
- Unexplained fever
- Abdominal pain
Diagnosis of Spermatocele
To determine if you have a Spermatocele or not, your doctor may follow the below course of action:
- Perform a thorough physical examination of your testicles and surrounding organs
- Ask questions related to your medical history
- Your doctor may also ask you to undergo the following diagnostic tests:
The doctor may shine a light on your scrotum. If a Spermatocele is present, the light will help the doctor determine that the cyst is fluid filled rather than a solid mass.
The transillumination technique does not clearly indicate if a cyst is present or not. It just indicates that fluid is filled inside the growing sac. A scrotal ultrasound which uses high frequency sound waves can be helpful in ruling out testicular tumours and other sources of scrotal growth.
Preparing for your appointment
Your first appointment can happen at your general physician’s or urologist’s clinic. In order to organize well for your appointment, below are some tips and points that can be helpful. It is always good to reach well-prepared.
- Prepare a list of all your symptoms
- Mention if you had any testicular injuries recently
- Make a list of your current medication or the medication prescribed in the past for a similar problem
- Prepare a list of questions that you may want to ask your doctor during the meeting. Some of those questions can be:
- What is the cause of my cyst?
- What sort of tests will I be required to undergo?
- Is the condition treatable?
- How much time will it take to completely go away?
- Will the cyst affect my fertility?
- Will the Spermatocele cause trouble while having sex?
- Will there be any side effects of the treatment?
- Will I require surgery?
- If yes, how much recovery time will be required?
- Is the cyst recurring?
- Be prepared to answer the following questions that your doctor may ask you:
- When and how did you first found out your cyst?
- What all symptoms are you facing?
- How long before did your symptoms begin?
- Did you experience any injury on your scrotal area?
- Do you experience pain?
- If yes, can you rate the intensity of pain as mild or severe?
- Does your testicle feel heavy on one side?
Difficulties associated with Spermatoceles
A Spermatocele is highly unlikely to produce any complication. However, if the cyst is growing abnormally or you are facing severe pain and inflammation, then you may have to undergo detailed diagnostic testing and surgery immediately. Surgical removal can harm the vas deferens (a tube that carries sperm from the epididymis to the penis) or the epididymis. Injury to any of these can result in reduction of fertility. Recurrence of the Spermatocele is another complication which is rarely seen.
Even though Spermatoceles do not vanish on their own, they may not require any sort of treatment until and unless the problems associated with these cysts are very severe and cause of concern. Based on the severity of your symptoms, the doctor may recommend the following:
For pain, your doctor may prescribe over the counter pain pills like Tylenol, Paracetomol, Advil, Ibuprofen etc.
A surgery or procedure known as spermatocelectomy may be performed under the influence of general or local anaesthesia. In this procedure, the surgeon will make a small cut in scrotum and separate the Spermatocele from the epididymis.
After the surgery is done, you may have to wear surgical gauze in order to support and protect the cut and allow it to heal accordingly. You may also be asked to:
- Apply ice packs to bring down the inflammation
- Take pain medicines
- Return for follow-up treatment after 2-3 weeks of treatment
Aspiration and Sclerotherapy
Another method for treating a Spermatocele is Aspiration with or without sclerotherapy. During aspiration, a special needle is injected into the cyst and the fluid is allowed to drain. If it reappears, the doctor may follow the same procedure to drain the fluid again, followed by insertion of a chemical irritant into the cyst sac so that its burns and does not get filled with fluid again.
Sclerotherapy may cause injury to the epididymis and there are high chances of recurrence of the Spermatocele.
Spermatocele Home Remedies
In case of Spermatoceles, some natural treatments can be used to get rid of the cyst and relief from the accompanying symptoms:
Balanced Diet:- The best way to treat a Spermatocele naturally is to follow a balanced diet rich in vitamins A, B, C and D and devoid of high fat content. This applies for a other cysts like sebaceous cyst, ganglion cyst and pilar cyst.
Topical Ointments :- Topical creams and supplements like Iodine, Magnesium and Chromium Chloride. According to latest studies, Iodine is a very useful agent in treating epididymis cysts. Usually cysts form due to Iodine deficiency and applying Iodine topically to the cyst, gradually decreases the size of the cyst.
Avoid Tight Undergarments :- Tight undergarments can play a big role in the formation of cysts on the epididymis and testicles. Wear undergarments that are not very tight or very loose.
Prevent UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) :- Take preventive measures to save yourself from urinary tract infections that can infect your Spermatocele. Drink sufficient amount of water and maintain urethral sanitation.
Pumpkin Seeds :- Pumpkin seeds are a very good remedy for cysts of the testis and epididymis. Boil the seeds in hot water and consume them instantly.
Homeopathy :- Few homeopathic drugs like Sepia and Phytollaca can help in getting rid of the epididymis cysts. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage and consume till the cyst disappears.
The best way to prevent Spermatoceles from forming is to conduct self-examination of testicles at least twice in a month. This will help you in timely detection of any abnormal growth or mass formation on your testis.
Self-Examination of Testicles: HOW?
The best time to examine your testicles is after a warm shower. The heat from the bath relaxes your scrotum and helps in detecting any abnormal growth. Here is how you do it:
- Be ready in front of the mirror and stand straight.
- Gaze for any swelling in the scrotum.
- Examine each of the testicles carefully with the set of hands.
- Place the middle finger below the testicles while you place your thumb on top.
- Softly roll the testicles between the thumbs and the fingers.
- If there is any growth or cyst, the fingers will not roll gently and a lump will be felt.
Regular self-examination helps in timely detection and treatment of any abnormal growth on the testicles, be it a cyst or a testicular tumour.
Look through these pictures below to clearly understand what they are and how they look:
Image : – Illustration depicting a Spermatocele
Image:- Swelling of epididymis
Image:- Spermatocele surgery