Under normal circumstances, the developing testes of a fetus grow within the abdomen. Just prior to birth, the testicles move downward through the inguinal canal and into the scrotum. In the cases of undescended testes, the testicles stay within the abdomen, even after birth.
Undescended testes are a congenital problem, meaning they are present at birth. The exact cause is not known, but inheritance may play a role. There may be some hormonal abnormality associated with the development of undescended testes. Twisting (torsion) of the testes within the abdomen during fetal development may cause injury or loss of the testes. “Ascending” undescended testes may occur in boys during childhood when a previously descended testis moves out of the scrotum into a low inguinal position.
The following factors increase your child’s chance of having undescended testes. If he has any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical examination. A diagnosis of undescended testes is usually made by a pediatrician based on the fact is one or both of the child’s testes cannot be felt within his scrotum. Additional tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
There is no known way to prevent undescended testes. Preventable complications of undescended testes may occur, however, as your child grows and matures. These include:
American Association of Pediatrics
National Infertility Association
Caring for Kids, The Canadian Paediatric Society
The Infertility Awareness Association of Canada
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Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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